In an alcohol-related vehicle accident, it may not be just the driver who is deemed responsible for the crash – and therefore responsible for damages that any victims have suffered. If the vehicle was actually owned by another party who loaned it to the at-fault driver, then the owner of the vehicle may also be held liable under Virginia’s negligent entrustment doctrine.
Negligent entrustment is a legal doctrine that permits an accident victim to recover damages when a vehicle owner provided access to a vehicle to a driver that the vehicle’s owner knew or should have known posed a risk to the public.
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When the Crash Vehicle Is Borrowed
When a victim sustains injuries in a drunk driving crash, the intoxicated/at-fault driver can be held liable for any damages the victim sustains as a result of the crash. Typically in personal injury cases, only the at-fault party can be held liable for damages and there is no responsibility put on a third-party that simply owned a vehicle the at-fault party was operating. But in certain cases, courts do allow third-party owners to be named in lawsuits.
In crashes where the third-party owner was negligent in allowing the at-fault driver to use their vehicle, the third-party owner could be sued for negligent entrustment.
In order to be successful using this doctrine, a car accident attorney must prove that:
- The driver was negligent in their operation of the vehicle;
- The owner of the vehicle gave the driver permission to use or have possession of the vehicle;
- The owner knew or should have known that the driver was unfit or incapable of safely operating the vehicle;
- The owner, expressly or impliedly, allowed the driver to use the vehicle anyway; and
- The driver’s unfitness to drive was a substantial factor that caused the accident which injured the victim.
In cases where the at-fault driver was under the influence of alcohol – or other intoxicating substance – it must be proven that the vehicle’s owner was aware or should have been aware that the driver was under the influence prior to giving the driver possession of the vehicle.
Negligent entrustment is the same doctrine that is applied when an employer provides access to a company vehicle to an employee/driver who should not have had access, such as an employee with multiple traffic violations on their driving record. The company/employer can be found liable for negligent entrustment for the accidents their employee drivers cause.
Contact a Virginia Accident Attorney for Assistance
If you have been injured in a crash caused by a drunk driver, contact a Virginia drunk driving accident attorney see what type of financial damages you may be entitled to. The legal team from Shapiro & Appleton has been advocating for injured clients since 1985 and will do all we can to ensure you receive the best possible outcome under the circumstances of your case. If you would like to meet with one of our skilled Va. car accident attorneys to find out how we can help, call us today at 757-384-9052 or a free case evaluation.