What is negligent entrustment?

Your recent auto accident in Missouri has no doubt left you dealing with a good deal of frustration. Yet you may temper some of that due to the assumption that your accident was just that: an accident. However, those feelings may boil over if you learn that the driver that caused your accident had a proven history of negligence or incompetence.

Your first question after learning of this may be how is it that such a driver was able to access a vehicle. An even better question might be who allowed them such access (and, by extension, should that person or party share in the liability for your accident).

Assigning third-party liability for a car accident

A legal principle exists that allows you to do just that. The doctrine of “negligent entrustment” states that the owner of a potentially dangerous chattel (in this case, a motor vehicle) has a responsibility to only grant access to it to those capable of operating it without putting you and others at risk. Should they fail to fulfill that responsibility, the law states that they also share in the liability for any injuries or damages the one they entrusted their vehicle to causes.

Meeting the standard for negligent entrustment in Missouri

Yet the fact that the person who caused your accident was not operating their own vehicle at the time may not be enough to apply negligent entrustment in your case. Rather, your case must meet the standard established by Missouri state law. Most recently cited in a 2017 state district court case, that standard mandates that:

  • You prove the driver is incompetent
  • The vehicle owner knew (or should have known) of their incompetence
  • The vehicle owner still loaned them the vehicle
  • The cumulative actions of both caused your accident

As you can see, such a standard excludes cases where one used a vehicle without the owner’s permission.

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Ryan R. Cox & Associates, LLC

Ryan R. Cox & Associates, LLC, is a litigation law firm that represents individuals and families in serious personal injury and wrongful death claims throughout Missouri.
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