It’s not uncommon for people to let a family member or friend borrow your car for a quick errand or as a small favor. Most people assume that the other person driving can do so in a safe manner, and in most instances, the driver returns the vehicle with no issue. However, this isn’t always the case.
Drivers in borrowed cars can be just as careless or negligent as drivers in their own vehicles and are at equal risk of getting into a car accident. However, if the person borrowing their friend or family member’s vehicle is intoxicated, unlicensed, or otherwise cannot safely drive the vehicle, the risk is significantly higher.
Here’s what you should understand about negligent entrustment in personal injury cases, and how to get the experienced legal help you need in Massachusetts and New Hampshire after a devastating accident.
What Is Negligent Entrustment?
Motor vehicle owners are responsible for ensuring that the vehicle they own is only operated safely and legally. Negligent entrustment occurs when a vehicle owner allows another person to drive their car, knowing they are or are likely unable to operate the vehicle safely.
This means that if you were hurt by a careless driver operating someone else’s vehicle, you may not only be able to hold the driver responsible for any damages that result from that collision, but also potentially the vehicle owner as well. If you choose to pursue compensation, you may have multiple defendants involved in your case. If the vehicle was faulty in some way, it’s possible to even have a third defendant – the vehicle’s manufacturer.
How to Prove Negligent Entrustment
In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, there are three elements to negligent entrustment. Here’s what you’ll need to prove in order to successfully pursue compensation from the owner of the vehicle involved in the accident that injured you.
1. Evidence That Indicates the Person Who Drove the Car Was Unfit to Do So
First, you must establish that the at-fault driver of the borrowed vehicle was not fit to safely operate it. For example, in cases of drinking and driving, it may be relatively easy to show that the driver was inebriated and unfit to drive. In other cases, however, establishing the incompetence of the at fault driver may be more challenging.
You may be able to show a pattern of recklessness by presenting the at fault party‘s poor driving record if they have a history of traffic infractions. Or, if the vehicle operator has a medical condition or takes a medication that makes it dangerous for them to drive, you may be able to provide evidence of this.
Then, you must also be able to illustrate that the injuries caused in the accident were directly the result of the established incompetence. For example, if you suffered severe whiplash from the accident, you’ll need to be able to show that you had no preexisting conditions and that the injury was specifically caused by the negligent driver’s behavior.
2. Evidence That the Driver Lent the Vehicle to the Unfit Operator
Next, you’ll need to prove that the driver allowed the unfit operator to borrow the vehicle. The incompetent driver must not have stolen the vehicle or have taken it without the consent of the vehicle owner.
This can sometimes be done by obtaining a statement from the at-fault party that they were allowed to borrow the vehicle. Or, there may be text messages or voicemails that recorded the vehicle owner giving permission to the driver to use it. In some cases, the vehicle owner will have admitted to allowing the person who caused the accident to borrow their car.
3. Evidence That the Driver Knew the Operator Would Not Be Able to Safely Drive the Vehicle
Arguably, the most important point to argue in a negligent entrustment case is that the owner of the vehicle knew or reasonably should have known that the person would not be able to safely drive the vehicle.
Some common examples of this include but are not limited to:
- Allowing an unlicensed or teenage driver to borrow your car, even if it’s just for a quick errand a short distance away
- Allowing an intoxicated or inebriated person to drive someone else’s car to pick up food or more alcohol for a party
- Letting someone with a history of potentially problematic medical issues borrow someone else’s car, e.g., if they have epilepsy, seizures, blackouts, or uncorrected poor vision
If the person who lent their vehicle out was aware or should have been aware that the driver was unfit to drive and allowed it anyway, you may be able to successfully pursue damages from them for negligent entrustment.
How an Experienced Massachusetts Personal Injury Attorney Can Help
Being hurt in a motor vehicle accident through no fault of your own is a devastating and costly experience. Depending on the severity of the accident and your subsequent injuries, you may be facing lifelong disabilities, or you may have lost a loved one to wrongful death. You deserve full and fair compensation from all parties involved in the negligence that harmed you and your family.
At Mazow | McCullough, PC, we have extensive experience zealously representing accident victims and their families. Negligent entrustment cases can be challenging, because the evidence required to prove that the owner of a vehicle knowingly lent it to someone who they were fully aware could not operate it safely is often difficult to obtain. It’s critical that you work with an experienced personal injury lawyer who has successfully represented negligent entrustment cases before.
Contact our office today to schedule your consultation to discuss the incident, your legal rights, and what the next step should be. Call now at (978) 744-8000 or toll free at (855) 693-9084.