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Negligent entrustment in New Jersey

Those who take to Clinton’s roads in their vehicles likely understand that the risk of being involved in a car accident is ever-present. Indeed, car accidents are often prevalent enough that few people escape ever being involved in one or personally knowing someone who has been. Per the New Jersey Department of Transportation, 278,413 such accidents occurred in the state in 2018 alone.

Most rely on the notion that other drivers take the same precautions they do in order to assuage any concerns they may have about driving. Yet there are plenty of irresponsible or incompetent drivers out there, and others willing to allow such drivers access to vehicles. When such drivers cause car accidents, many often wonder whether those who loaned them vehicles can also be held liable.

A legal principle known as negligent entrustment does allow car accident victims to assign vicarious liability to vehicle owners who loan out their cars to drivers who then cause accidents. The philosophy behind this principle is that vehicle owners should take care in knowing who they are allowing to use their cars.

Yet New Jersey’s application of negligent entrustment differs from that of many other states. In local cases, it depends on the relationship that the vehicle owner has with the driver. State superior court rulings have established that negligent entrustment can only be cited in a car accident case if the driver is acting as an agent or employee of the owner. Cases where a person simply lends their car to another who causes an accident may not have a valid argument for vicarious liability under this standard.

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