Raymond E. Frost & Associates Raymond E. Frost & Associates

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Defining negligent entrustment

It may not be difficult for most drivers in California to remember when they first began to drive. The benefit of hindsight likely affords them a perspective that reveals that their inexperience (and immaturity) may have prompted them to engage in some driving behaviors that they might think twice about today. Indeed, information shared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that teenage drivers are more likely to display reckless behavior while behind the wheel. 

Yet while this understanding may afford motorists a certain degree of understanding when they are involved in car accidents caused by teen drivers, it does not change the fact that they may be required to seek added compensation when dealing with their accident expenses. As teens are unlikely to have the resources necessary to offer accident victims any financial assistance, most may think that it is their parents that would be liable in such situations. 

Yet is that really the case? The legal doctrine of negligent entrustment allows people to hold vehicle owners liable for accidents caused by people to whom they loaned their vehicles. This would technically allow car accident victims to pursue compensation from the parents of teens who cause collisions. Yet negligent entrustment may not apply to every auto accident case. California's Civil Jury Instructions show that the following elements must be present to cite it: 

  • The teen was driving recklessly 
  • The teen had their parents permission to use the vehicle
  • The parents knew (or should have known) of the teen's reckless tendencies
  • Even knowing this, the parents still let the teen use the vehicle
  • The teen's inexperience or recklessness was a key factor in causing the accident

Per this criteria, this principle would not apply to cases where a teen took their parents' vehicle without permission.  

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