Determining liability is a huge part of getting the full and fair settlement you deserve after an Alabama car accident. However, it’s not always as simple as figuring out who was driving the car and taking the claim to their insurance. If the driver of the vehicle is not the car’s owner, the owner might share some of the liability in the crash. There are lots of factors that go into this, which is one reason you need to hire a reliable car accident attorney after a crash.
Are you ready to fight for the settlement you deserve after a car accident? We’re with you every step of the way. Call Burns, Cunningham & Mackey at 251-432-0612 to set up a consultation now.
Assigning Liability to the Vehicle Owner
In some cases, the vehicle’s owner is responsible for the accident, rather than the driver. This is known as negligent entrustment, and it allows you to seek compensation from the vehicle owner’s insurance.
It isn’t as simple as it may seem on its face. You can’t claim negligent entrustment just because the owner of a vehicle lent the car to someone else. In fact, there are several elements that must be present in any negligent entrustment claim.
Elements of a Negligent Entrustment Claim
The owner of a vehicle isn’t always liable for damage caused by someone borrowing their car. In fact, most of the time, liability stays with the driver. This assumes that the driver is capable and that the owner had no reason to suspect that the driver would cause an accident.
For a negligent entrustment claim to stick, these elements must be proven:
- The owner of the vehicle had control over the vehicle, either as an owner or lessee
- The owner lent the vehicle to someone who then drove recklessly or negligently, causing an accident.
- It would be reasonable to expect the owner to know that the driver would drive negligently, either due to inexperience, incompetence, or intentional recklessness.
- The driver’s negligence played a key role in the accident that caused your injuries.
As you see, the owner must know or be reasonably expected to know that the person they lent their vehicle to would use it unsafely. If the borrower has a long history of safe driving and nothing but a couple of old tickets on their record, the lender has no reason to believe that they will drive unsafely. In these situations, the driver would generally be liable for the damage caused.
When would an owner be expected to know that a driver is unsafe? Here are some examples:
- The driver is not in possession of a driver’s license or is only in possession of a learner’s permit.
- The driver has previously been involved in multiple crashes where they were found to be at fault.
- The driver has no prior experience deriving that type of vehicle they are borrowing.
- The driver has a medical condition that makes them a danger to others on the road.
- The driver has lost their license in the past due to reckless driving.
- The driver has a history of drinking or using drugs prior to driving.
In these cases, the law says that the owner should have known better and not lent the car to the borrower. Negligent entrustment may make it easier for you to seek compensation if the driver does not have insurance or has the bare minimum.
Defenses Against Negligent Entrustment
An owner might use several different defenses against a negligent entrustment claim. They might say that the driver is not actually unfit to drive. If the driver is not unsafe, the rest of the negligent entrustment claim falls apart.
The owner might also say that they did not know of the driver’s recklessness and could not have been expected to know. It’s rare, but it does happen—sometimes a previously good driver drastically changes their driving habits.
They may also claim that they never gave permission to borrow the vehicle. If this is true, the vehicle would likely have been considered stolen at the time of the crash. This would make it very difficult to hold the vehicle owner liable for the crash.
Choose Burns, Cunningham & Mackey for Your Injury Claim
Car accident claims are complicated, and you need a strong legal team to fight for the compensation you deserve. Find out how Burns, Cunningham & Mackey can help you. Call us at 251-432-0612 or reach out to us online to set up a meeting.