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Negligent Entrustment in Georgia Auto Accidents

A vehicle can be a dangerous or deadly weapon in the wrong hands. Every driver has a duty to operate his or her vehicle in accord with the state’s traffic laws as well as in an otherwise reasonably prudent manner under the circumstances. This can include accounting for road conditions, weather, traffic and time of day. For these reasons, the drivers are generally the first place we look to assign fault in an accident. Under some circumstances, however, the person who allowed a negligent driver to get behind the wheel can also be liable.

This liability is based on the legal theory of negligent entrustment, the idea that a person who owns or otherwise exercises control over a vehicle has a duty to not permit an unfit driver to operate it and can be held responsible if that unfit driver causes an injury while operating it. Proving a claim for negligent entrustment requires the plaintiff to establish several elements:

  • The defendant must have either owned the vehicle or otherwise been in a position to control access to it.
  • The defendant must have actually entrusted the vehicle to the driver. Simply failing to prevent access is not enough.
  • The defendant must have had actual knowledge that the driver was unfit.
  • The driver must have actually been negligent in causing the accident.

Knowledge of unfitness can be a high standard to meet. Some primary examples would be when the owner knows the driver is an unlicensed minor or when the driver is visibly intoxicated at the time permission is given. Some more difficult but workable examples could also include drivers who have a history of reckless driving or of driving under the influence.

Negligent entrustment claims are usually considered an alternative when the at-fault driver is uninsured or underinsured and has little in the way or personal assets. An experienced Georgia auto accident attorney can evaluate the situation to determine whether such a claim would be advisable in your case.