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What is negligent entrustment?

As the owner of a vehicle in Kent, you (and others) owe a duty of care to each other that your cars, trucks or SUV's not cause them any harm out on the road. That duty is typically fulfilled by you and other vehicle owners driving safely. Yet does it also extend to vehicle owners permitting others to use their vehicles? If you are involved in an accident caused by a driver who was using another's vehicle, then you might wonder what sort of liability the vehicle owner may face. That all depends on whether negligent entrustment applies to your case. 

The legal doctrine of negligent entrustment allows vicarious liability to be assigned to third parties for damages caused by one to whom they entrusted with a potentially dangerous instrument (such as a car). There are two key elements that must be present in order to apply negligent entrustment to your case: knowledge and consent. First, the vehicle owner must have known (or should have known) that the person they were loaning their car to was an incompetent or reckless driver. Indeed, when establishing the state's standard for negligent entrustment, Washington State Superior Court rulings adhere to the following definition: "A person entrusting a vehicle to another may be liable under a theory of negligent entrustment only if that person knew, or should have known in the exercise of ordinary care, that the person to whom the vehicle was entrusted is reckless, heedless, or incompetent."

The second element of consent requires that even with a vehicle owner knowing of a driver's poor tendencies, they consented to said driver using their vehicle anyway. This would exclude vehicle owners whose vehicles were taken without their permission from liability under this statute. 

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Greaney Scudder Law Firm
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Kent, WA 98032

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