If all corporations that have company-owned vehicles on the road aren’t aware of the claim of negligent entrustment under Alabama law, they should be. If a company, with knowledge, allows an incompetent driver to drive one of its vehicles, that company can be liable for the driver’s negligence while operating the vehicle. This theory of liability also applies to individuals who allow others to drive their personal vehicles. If you are involved in a motor vehicle accident and you are injured, you may have a valid legal claim against the owner of the other vehicle involved in the accident if the owner negligently entrusted the vehicle to an “incompetent” driver. The term incompetent has a special meaning under Alabama law. You can learn about negligent entrustment by reading an Alabama Supreme Court case [Edwards v. Valentine, 926 So. 2d 315 (Ala. 2005)].
In the Valentine case, the Plaintiff was injured when his vehicle was hit by a vehicle owned by one person, but driven by another. That driver did not have a valid driver’s license and was driving a vehicle owned by his brother-in-law. The Plaintiff sued the owner, claiming that the owner negligently entrusted the vehicle to the driver and that his injuries were caused by that entrustment. The Plaintiff won his case, which included damages for his injuries as well as damages for his wife’s loss of consortium claim. The case was appealed by the owner and the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed the award. The court also set out the elements required for a negligent entrustment claim. In Alabama, for there to be a negligent entrustment, there must be:
The Alabama Supreme Court set out some useful guidelines in the Valentine case that help us know what the court considers to be important in these cases. If you are injured in a car wreck and the person driving the other vehicle doesn’t own the car, it’s important to find out who owned the vehicle, to look into the driver’s driving history, and find out whether the driver had a history of drug or alcohol use, and to determine whether the owner negligently entrusted the vehicle to the driver under Alabama law.
When the owner is a corporation, especially a trucking company, there are all sorts of records that you can get to ascertain whether there is a potential negligent entrustment claim. Success in these cases depends on good investigation and pretrial discovery. I can tell you, however, that juries will not find a driver to be incompetent unless the evidence clearly justifies such a finding. But when adequate proof is there, and the case is tried properly, judges and jurors will respond favorably.
Contact us today for a free legal consultation with an experienced attorney.
Fields marked *may be required for submission.
If you would like to subscribe to the Jere Beasley Report digital edition, simply visit our Subscriptions page and provide the necessary information or call us at 800-898-2034.
Attorney Advertising - Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.