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What is negligent entrustment of an automobile?

Negligent drivers are sometimes not the only persons responsible for causing car accidents. In some cases third parties can share responsibility for the harm that occurs when those drivers might have been prevented from getting behind the wheel. This theory of liability is known as "negligent entrustment."

Ohio law establishes the circumstances in which the person who owns a vehicle can be found liable for giving custody of – entrusting, in other words – his or her car to another when he or she knows or should know that doing so could lead to a violation of law.

The law sets up the situations in which negligent entrustment can arise:

  • If the vehicle owner knew or should have known that the driver had no valid driver’s license or permit, or that the license or permit had been suspended; or
  • If the vehicle owner knew or should have known that the driver would be operating in violation of other statutes, such as the requirement to have proof of insurance, or operating a vehicle while intoxicated, or driving a vehicle subject to an immobilization order when the driver is prohibited from driving it.

Negligent entrustment cases often occur when parents negligently let one of their children drive the family car. As with any car accident-related action based in negligence, negligent entrustment requires the plaintiff to prove the fundamental elements of a duty to the plaintiff on the part of the defendant, the defendant’s breach of that duty, resultant harm to the plaintiff and causation. As a cause of action, negligent entrustment opens the possibility of adding additional defendants to a personal injury lawsuit, which can be advantageous to the plaintiff’s chances of receiving full compensation.

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