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What is negligent entrustment?

If and when you experience a car accident in New York, your first reaction may be to offer the person that caused your accident some degree of empathy and understanding. This desire is likely based on the same assumption that many have: that car accidents typically are simply accidents.

When you learn, however, that the driver that hit you had a checkered driving history (one that should keep them from endangering others on the road by driving), then your thoughts likely turn to wonder who would grant such a person access to a vehicle. That then prompts the question of whether that party should share in the liability for your accident.

Third-party liability for car accidents

The law indeed allows for third-party liability in car accident cases thanks to a legal principle known as negligent entrustment. This doctrine finds its footprints in the assumption that vehicle owners should exercise caution in who they lend their cars to. A failure to do so can then warrant a liability claim on your part.

Negligent entrustment elements in New York

Yet the fact that the driver that caused your accident was not driving their own vehicle at the time may not mean that negligent entrustment applies to your case. Rather, your case must meet the standard set forth in your state. For New York, state court rulings establish that standard. A recent ruling cited the rule the state follows when it says that you must show that the vehicle owner must have some special knowledge of whatever condition or characteristic causes the driver to pose an unreasonable risk to your and other motorists on the road. Thus, if the vehicle owner did not know of the driver’s incompetence or inexperience, then the court may not assign liability to them for any accident the driver causes.

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