There is a reason why the car accidents that occur in Ocean County are referred to as “accidents.” This may prompt you to be understanding towards whomever caused the collision that you were involved in. Yet what if it is discovered that said driver should not have been operating a vehicle at all (either due to his or her own demonstrated incompetence behind the wheel, or not having a drivers’ license)? Your frustrations may not only be directed at the driver, but also to whomever gave him or her access to a vehicle in the first place.
The question is whether you can hold that third party liable if you choose to seek compensation. The legal doctrine of negligent entrustment allows you to do just that. Simply put, negligent entrustment means that a vehicle owner entrusted said vehicle to a driver when he or she should have known the driver was likely to cause an accident. Up until recently, New Jersey state court rulings had established that in order for negligent entrustment to be applied to your case, you needed to be able to prove the following:
- The driver that hit you was incompetent, inexperienced or reckless
- The person who entrusted him or her with a vehicle knew this (or should have known)
- The person did indeed entrust the driver with his or her vehicle
- That act created an appreciable risk of harm to others
- The harm or injury you (and others) experienced was proximately due to the actions of both of the aforementioned parties
According to the New Jersey Legislature, a change was made earlier this year that limits the application of negligent entrustment to cases where the driver who caused an accident was unlicensed (and the person who entrusted him or her with a vehicle knew this).