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Understanding Negligent Entrustment Under Colorado Law

by  on  Accident Attorney

In some car accident cases, the defendant-driver does not actually own the car that they were operating at the time of the accident.  Generally speaking, this is a good thing for an injury litigant, as it opens up the possibility of suing the owner of the vehicle on the basis of a negligent entrustment claim.

If you have been injured in a car accident due to the fault of another, you may be entitled to recover damages as compensation for your various injuries. It’s important that you connect with an experienced Denver auto accident lawyer as soon as possible so that your claims can be filed in a timely manner.

Negligent entrustment is an independent claim brought against the owner (or controlling person/entity) of a vehicle for loaning, permitting, or otherwise entrusting the vehicle to a driver that they knew (or should have known) would be unfit to safely operate the vehicle.  Pursuing a negligent entrustment claim does not undermine your injury claim against the driver.  In fact, a negligent entrustment claim can help you recover your damages in full, particularly in situations where the defendant-driver lacks adequate insurance coverage or personal assets.

Suppose, for example, that you are injured in a car accident.  The defendant-driver is uninsured, however, and does not have sufficient personal assets to cover your damages.  If the driver is not the owner of the vehicle, and the owner should have known that the driver was not competent to operate said vehicle, then you might be entitled to sue the owner and recover damages for negligent entrustment.  By doing so, you can secure recovery from another defendant.

Negligent entrustment requires that the defendant not only have owned the vehicle, or otherwise controlled it, but that the defendant actively entrusted the vehicle to the driver — if the driver used the defendant-owner’s car without permission, then the owner cannot be held liable for negligent entrustment. Our Denver auto accident lawyer notes that the entrustment must be consensual.  Further, the driver must have acted negligently or recklessly in causing the accident at-issue.  An owner cannot be held liable for negligent entrustment if an unavoidable accident happened where no one was at fault.

Driver is Unfit and Incompetent to Drive

One of the key elements of a negligent entrustment claim in Colorado is that the defendant (i.e., the vehicle owner) should have known, or must actually have known, that the driver was unfit to operate the vehicle.

What constitutes an unfit driver for the purposes of a negligent entrustment claim?  Consider the following factors.

  • History of drunk driving
  • History of reckless driving (i.e., suspended licenses and/or prior accidents)
  • Physical impairments
  • Mental impairments
  • Driver is young and lacks experience
  • Driver does not have a valid license
  • Driver is intoxicated (drugs or alcohol)
  • Driver lacks the capacity to safely operate the vehicle due to prescription medicine
  • And more

Whether the owner should have known that the driver is unfit will depend largely on the circumstances of the case.

Seek Help From a Denver Auto Accident Lawyer Today

If you have questions or concerns about your case, speak to a Denver auto accident lawyer as soon as possible. Contact our office today.