In car accidents where the driver and the vehicle owner are not the same person, we are often asked:
Can I sue the owner of the car that hit me as well as the driver?
The answer may be “yes”.
Depending on the facts of your case, you may be able to sue the owner of the car as well as the driver. This is often referred to as a Negligent Entrustment of Motor Vehicle claim or cause of action.
What must be proven in court is most often defined by the Jury Instructions that would be given if a trial were to occur. With this question it would be wise to look at the Judicial Counsel’s Jury Instruction (“CACI”) No. 724 (https://www.justia.com/California Civil Jury Instruction No. 724) which sets forth the elements for a claim of negligent entrustment. The Plaintiff (the injured party with the claim) must prove all of the following:
- That [name of driver] was negligent in operating the vehicle;
- That [name of defendant] owned the vehicle operated by [name of driver]/ had possession of the vehicle operated by [name of driver] with the owner’s permission;
- That [name of defendant] knew, or should have known, that [name of driver] was incompetent or unfit to drive the vehicle;
- That [name of defendant] permitted [name of driver] to use the vehicle; and
- That [name of driver]’s incompetence or unfitness to drive was a substantial factor in causing harm to [name of plaintiff].
Most often, you, the injured party, would not have information or facts regarding the elements required, such as “the owner’s permission” – that the owner knew or should have known that the driver was incompetent of unfit to drive the vehicle, or “even if the owner permitted the driver to use the vehicle.” It is most often through investigation and formal litigation discovery that these elements are disclosed and the facts supporting the elements are either established or not. In order to accomplish this discovery, lawyers often employ private investigators and/or commence litigation to conduct the necessary formal discovery.
This issue can be very complicated and you should consult with an attorney and review all of the facts and documents to determine how they apply to your case.
********** This post is intended to encourage discussion on this topic and does not constitute legal advice. All individuals who would like further information are advised to do additional research, obtain qualified legal advice and/or retain an attorney. **********