Suing for Negligent Entrustment in FloridaSeptember 9, 2022 | Category: Automobile Accidents | Share
In Florida, if you’ve suffered injuries in a car accident, you may be entitled to bring an action against both the defendant-driver and the owner of the vehicle (if the two individuals are different, of course). Owners are not shielded from liability — if the circumstances demonstrate that they have contributed to your injuries by negligently entrusting their vehicle to another driver, then they can be held responsible for significant damages.
What is Negligent Entrustment?
Negligent entrustment is a cause of action that may be available in accident scenarios where the vehicle owner has allowed another person (i.e., a friend or family member) to use their vehicle for a time. Depending on the circumstances, the owner may have been negligent in entrusting the driver with their vehicle. Specifically, you — the injured plaintiff — are entitled to sue and recover damages from the owner if you can show that the owner knew or should have known that the entrusted driver posed an unreasonable risk of harm to others.
In Florida, the law is highly protective of the injured. Vehicle owners are required to exercise the highest degree of care when entrusting their vehicle to others, as a motor vehicle is a “dangerous instrumentality” that poses a high risk of injury (or death).
Suppose, for example, that you are injured by a drunk driver. You consult with an attorney and begin the process of investigation the accident further. You discover that the driver does not own the vehicle, but that a friend (the owner of the vehicle) entrusted it to them. The owner of the vehicle knew or should have known that the driver they entrusted their vehicle to was impaired. Or, perhaps the owner knew or should have known by virtue of the driver’s inexperience or past driving record that the driver posed an unreasonable risk to others. In such circumstances, you could sue the owner for knowing that their friend posed an unreasonable danger to others, yet still entrusting their vehicle to them.
How Negligent Entrustment Differs From Vicarious Liability
Negligent entrustment is not the same as “vicarious liability,” though the two share some surface-level similarities.
Vicarious liability in the context of Florida entrustment involves the imposition of damages on the owner whether he or she was actually at fault. For example, if an owner reasonably entrusts their car to a friend — who has no history of dangerous driving — the owner can still be held liable under vicarious liability in the event that their friend negligently causes injuries. Though it’s quite easy to “prove” vicarious liability, the damages are quite limited ($100,000 per person).
Negligent entrustment, on the other hand, requires that you prove that the vehicle owner violated the reasonable standard of care in entrusting their vehicle over to the driver at-issue. As the plaintiff bringing a cause of action for negligent entrustment you must prove the owner knew or should have known some reason why entrusting the vehicle to another was foolish or negligent. Fortunately, negligent entrustment claims are not damage capped — you may obtain full compensation for your injuries.
How Do You Prove Negligent Entrustment?
As discussed above, establishing liability for negligent entrustment requires proof that the vehicle owner knew or should have known not to lend his or her vehicle to the driver who caused your accident. So, how do you prove what someone knew—or what they should have known—at the relevant time?
While this can be tricky, there are several types of evidence lawyers can use in negligent entrustment cases. From text messages to a driver’s history of getting drunk and then getting behind the wheel, there are a variety of ways to prove negligent entrustment. The key is to conduct a thorough investigation—with a particular focus on establishing the vehicle owner’s liability.
Why Sue the Vehicle Owner Instead of the Driver?
After all of this, you might be wondering why you would bother with filing a negligent entrustment claim against a vehicle owner. Can’t you just file a claim under the at-fault driver’s insurance policy and be done with it? While this might be a viable option in some cases, there are also several scenarios in which filing a negligent entrustment claim may be necessary. For example, you may need to file a negligent entrustment claim if:
- The Driver Who Borrowed the Vehicle Doesn’t Have Insurance – If someone does not have a vehicle of their own, there is a good chance that person doesn’t have auto insurance. If the driver who hit you is uninsured, filing a negligent entrustment claim provides you with an alternate source of financial recovery.
- The At-Fault Driver’s Insurance Coverage Isn’t Enough – Even if the driver who hit you has auto insurance, his or her coverage could still be insufficient to cover all of your accident-related losses. This is referred to as being “underinsured.” If you were hit by an underinsured driver who was borrowing someone else’s vehicle, filing a negligent entrustment claim can increase your total recovery.
Speak With an Experienced Fort Myers Car Accident Attorney for Further Guidance
If you’ve been injured in a Florida car accident that was caused by the negligence, omissions, or wrongful acts of another, then you may have a right of action against those responsible. In some cases, the defendant-driver may not be the only person responsible for your injuries. If the circumstances point to negligent entrustment, then you could potentially sue and recover damages from the vehicle owner.
Call (888) 477-4839 today or submit an online form to contact an experienced Fort Myers car accident attorney at the Spivey Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, P.A. Randall Spivey will provide a free and confidential consultation to discuss your legal rights.