You May Be Liable When You Give Your Car to a Bad Driver

Posted By Matthew Clawson || 14-Oct-2015

An automobile is a 3,000 pound deadly weapon, if placed in the wrong hands. If you loan your car to a person who causes injuries in an accident, you may be liable for “negligent entrustment.”

Under Colorado law, a person who provides an object (e.g. car, weapon, etc.) to another person, knowing or having reason to know that they are likely (because of their youth, inexperience, or other reasons) to use the object in a manner involving unreasonable risk of physical harm to themselves or to others, is subject to liability for the resulting physical harm.

Colorado courts have applied this law to hold an employer liable for the death of an employee who was given a car to use by the employer even when the employer knew that the employee was intoxicated.

On the other hand, courts have refused to hold a car dealer liable for selling a car to a person who does not have a driver’s license. Car dealers do not have a duty to inquire into a buyer’s driving history—or even whether the purchaser is licensed to drive the car in Colorado—before selling a car. While the lack of a license might signify a driver’s incompetence, the absence of a license does not necessarily mean the person is an incompetent driver. Nor does the law of negligent entrustment require that the vehicle owner conduct an investigation into the driving history of the person they are allowing to drive their car unless there is some information or reason to do so.

Here are common situations that make you liable for giving your car to someone to drive who causes injury in an accident:

  • Your teenager asks for your car for his friend who just needs to get a ride to work for a few hours. Without knowing the age of the “friend,” simply knowing that the friend is a teenager should give you enough reason to ask if the friend has a driver’s license—which would be the basic requirement for safe driving. If you don’t, and the unlicensed, inexperienced, teenage friend injures someone in a car accident, you will be liable.
  • Your friend is at your home for a football party and has consumed more than a few beers. This friend offers to make a run to the pizza store to pick up the pizza. If the friend has been drinking (or smoking or consuming other drugs) and you entrust your car to him, it is likely you will be liable for injuries he causes in a car accident.

The message is clear: consider how your car will be used—and by whom—before you entrust it to someone you don’t know. The fact that you will be held legally liable for injuries caused by use of your car is only a small part of the picture. The bigger picture is that a person may be disabled for life because you gave your car to someone whom you had reason to know would not use it with reasonable care.

Categories: Car Accident

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