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.