Be Careful Whom You Lend Your Car To

You may be a loving parent or a generous friend, but I recommend thinking twice before loaning your vehicle to someone whom you know is drunk, or has been drinking, or has a history of drinking problems.

Be Careful of Drunk Drivers and Those With DUIs

That goes for friends being generous with friends. That goes for parents handing over the keys to their children (of any age). It also applies to employers who send out their workers to drive while on the clock.

The bottom line is, depending on the circumstances, if you let someone drive your vehicle and the driver has an accident, you may be found liable. If the driver was drunk and you knew it, but let that person drive your vehicle anyway, or if you knew that the driver had a drinking problem, especially as evidenced by previous incidents of drunk driving, you may very possibly be found liable.

Legal theories at play may include “negligent entrustment,” “vicarious liability” and, in the case of an employer, “respondeat superior” (which means, “let the master answer”).

One of the most remarkable cases I’ve heard of is a lawsuit that recently made its way to the Kansas Supreme Court. Travis Driscoll borrowed a car from Leroy Driscoll, who is presumably a relative, although the legal documents I’ve seen do not specify. While driving Leroy’s car, Travis was in an accident in which he experienced serious injuries.

Who sued whom? The drunk driver, Travis Driscoll, sued Leroy Driscoll, claiming that the defendant should never have loaned him the car. Travis Driscoll argued that Leroy Driscoll knew he had a drinking problem, knew that he drank daily, and knew that he had received multiple DUIs before. The lawsuit argued first-party negligent entrustment. In other words, the claim is that Leroy had a duty to not let Travis use his car.

Negligent entrustment occurs when someone provides another person with a dangerous instrument, in this case, a vehicle. Handing over the keys to someone who is intoxicated or who might be expected to be intoxicated may result in the vehicle owner being found liable. The same argument, of course, may also be applied to lending one’s car to someone who is incapable of safe driving for some other reason, such as carelessness, recklessness or incompetence.

In June of this year, the Kansas Supreme Court denied the defendants’ motion to dismiss, sending the case back to the lower courts for further action.

“We conclude that (1) Kansas law recognizes a first-party negligent entrustment claim; (2) if an entrustor owed a duty of care to an entrustee and that duty was breached, then determining the parties’ comparative fault for the incident resulting in injuries to the entrustee is a question of fact for the jury to decide; and (3) Kansas public policy does not prevent an entrustor from being liable for an entrustee’s injuries that resulted from the entrustee’s negligent use of the entrustor’s chattel. Accordingly, we reverse the district court’s decision to dismiss Driscoll’s petition and remand for further proceedings.”

By the way, for attorneys involved in similar cases, the court opinion in the Driscoll case provides a good review of precedent.

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Have you experienced personal injury or economic loss due to a car accident and need to talk to an Oklahoma city car accident attorney? Did the accident involve drunk driving, driving under the influence, driving while impaired by drugs or speeding? Contact an Oklahoma City personal injury lawyer at Hasbrook & Hasbrook immediately for a free consultation.

For more information, see our webpage: “DUI, drunk driving and speeding accidents.”