When the owner of a vehicle lets another person use his or her car, the car owner may be named as a defendant in an injury lawsuit if he or she knew or should have known that the driver was an incompetent or reckless driver. Illinois recognizes a legal theory called negligent entrustment, which allows injured plaintiffs to sue car owners who loan their vehicles to people who are bad drivers. Naming both the vehicle’s owner as well as the negligent driver might help a lawyer for a car accident to maximize his or her client’s potential recovery.
Illinois case law indicates that the owner of a dangerous instrument such as a car cannot entrust it to a person if the owner either knows or should reasonably know that the instrument could be used in a way that could harm someone else. The rule applies to any dangerous instruments, and examples involving cars could include letting someone borrow a vehicle who has had several convictions for drunk driving, multiple tickets for reckless driving or speeding or who doesn’t have a license to drive if the vehicle’s owner knew or should have known about it.
In order to prove that the vehicle’s owner negligently entrusted his or her car to the codefendant, the personal injury plaintiff must be able to demonstrate that the owner:
Some bad drivers are either uninsured or have insufficient coverage to pay for the losses that the accident victims have suffered. Being able to also name the vehicle’s owner as another defendant might help injured victims to recover damages in amounts that may fairly compensate them. When a lawyer for a car accident suspects that negligent entrustment might be at issue in his or her client’s case, he or she may investigate the issue further in order to determine whether the owner may be sued for negligent entrustment.