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Negligent Entrustment


When a driver causes a car crash and someone suffers an injury as a result, the at-fault party can be required to compensate the victim. According to Pennsylvania law, however, at-fault drivers are not the only individuals who can be held accountable for injuries caused by their actions. This is because under the legal theory of negligent entrustment, a car’s owner can be sued for loaning his or her car to a negligent or reckless driver if that driver caused a car accident.

Owner Liability

In Pennsylvania, when car owners lend their vehicles to another driver, they can be held legally responsible for any ensuing accidents. However, to be found liable, the injured party must establish specific facts, including that:

  • The car’s owner permitted another person to operate the vehicle;
  • The driver was unfit to operate the vehicle;
  • The car’s owner knew or should have known that the driver was not fit to drive;
  • The driver was negligent; and
  • The driver’s negligence caused an accident that resulted in injuries.

Once a plaintiff has established that a car’s owner either expressly or impliedly entrusted the vehicle to the at-fault party, he or she must demonstrate that the owner knew or should have known that the driver was unfit. To satisfy the definition of unfit, a driver must usually:

  • Be intoxicated;
  • Unlicensed;
  • Underage;
  • Inexperienced;
  • Elderly;
  • Ill or disabled; or
  • Someone with a record of driving recklessly.

It can sometimes be difficult to establish that an owner knew or should have known that a driver posed an unreasonable risk of harm to others. However, courts will take into consideration the driver’s immediate appearance or conduct at the time of the interaction when determining an owner’s liability. For instance, if a car’s owner witnessed the driver drinking, slurring his or her words or walking unsteadily, he or she would have notice that the driver posed a risk to others and could also be held liable for a victim’s damages. The courts have consistently stated, though, that having a generalized knowledge of inexperience or previous erratic driving is not enough to impute responsibility to the car’s owner. Similarly, mere knowledge of a child’s reckless disposition will not make a car’s owner liable for an accident caused by his or her child unless there is evidence that the parents had actual knowledge that their child was intoxicated or intended to drive erratically.

Car Insurance

If car owners purchase no-fault insurance, they may be protected from liability even if they negligently entrusted their vehicle to an incompetent or underage person. This is because liability claims against a driver cannot proceed if he or she had a no-fault insurance policy. Injured parties should be sure to check what type of insurance they have prior to filing a claim.

Contact us Today to Speak With an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney in Philadelphia

At van der Veen, Hartshorn, and Levin, we understand that being involved in an accident caused by another person’s negligence or recklessness can be both painful and traumatic. We are dedicated to ensuring that our clients receive the compensation that they deserve, so if you were recently injured in a car crash, please contact our legal team by calling 215-515-6892 today.


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