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Understanding the negligent entrustment doctrine

For all of the resources and effort that go into preventing car accidents on Conroe, such incidents are still a fairly common occurrence. Texas (thanks to its large population) routinely ranks among the top states in terms of annual volumes of vehicle collisions. Indeed, according to the Texas Department of Transportation, there were 9,417 accidents in Montgomery County in 2017 alone. Often, assigning responsibility for such accidents is not all that difficult. People may easily spot when a driver is operating a vehicle recklessly and/or without regard to others. In such a situation, the only thing that may be more surprising than the liable driver's behavior is the fact that someone entrusted them with a vehicle at all. 

When a reckless driver causes an accident, vicarious liability may also be assigned to whatever third parties enabled that person to drive. This option (known as the negligent entrustment doctrine) is only available, however, in cases where one loaned a vehicle to an irresponsible driver. One might automatically assume that a vehicle owner would always be liable for any damage or injuries that are caused by that vehicle, regardless of whoever is behind the wheel. Yet that is not always the case. 

Rulings issued by the Texas Court of Appeals have established the state's standard for applying the negligent entrustment doctrine. It has been determined that, in order for a vehicle owner to be held liable in this case, it must be shown that: 

  • They did indeed entrust their vehicle to another
  • That person was an unlicensed, reckless or incompetent driver
  • They knew (or should have known) of said driver's tendencies or shortcomings
  • The driver was negligent in the incident in question
  • That negligence was the cause of the incident

This standard would exclude any case where a vehicle was taken without permission. 

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