Determining the full extent of an accident victim’s potential recovery following an Alabama car accident is not always as simple as filing a case against the person who was behind the wheel at the time of the accident. While naming the at-fault driver is a good place to start, there may be other potentially liable parties who should be named in the lawsuit. For example, under the theory of negligent entrustment, the owner of a vehicle may be liable to an accident victim even if they were not in the car at the time of the accident.
What Is Negligent Entrustment?
In Alabama, the owner of a vehicle may be liable for injuries resulting from an accident involving their vehicle if the victim can prove certain elements. In a 2005 case, the Alabama Supreme Court clarified that a negligent entrustment claim must establish that: 1.) the owner of the vehicle allowed another person to use their vehicle, 2.) that person was incompetent, 3.) the owner knew of the person’s incompetence, and 4.) the person’s incompetence caused the plaintiff’s injuries.
Often, several of these elements go uncontested because they are easily proven. However, the third element – proving that the owner of a vehicle knew of the driver’s incompetence – can often present Alabama victims with the biggest hurdle. A recent case issued by a federal appellate court illustrates how this element can be difficult to prove.