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Teen drivers and negligent entrustment

New teen drivers are introduced to the streets of Los Angeles every day. Those responsible for them (parents or guardians) also need to understand that their inexperience can also make them a threat to others on the road. On top of that inexperience, teens have also shown themselves to be more prone to engaging in unsafe driving practices (indeed, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that they are more likely to speed, follow other cars to closely, and drive while intoxicated than other groups of drivers). 

These factors clearly highlight the need for parents and guardians to closely monitor their teens driving activity. A failure to do so could potentially open them up to liability issues. The legal principle of negligent entrustment allows car accident victims to hold the people that entrusted vehicles to unsafe drivers responsible for the accidents that those drivers may cause. This is due to the assumption that vehicle owners should understand the driving skills (and shortcomings) of those that they loan their vehicles to. 

This idea is reiterated in California's Civil Jury Instructions, which state that in order to cite negligent entrustment in a case, one must prove the following: 

  • That a driver was negligent in operating a vehicle
  • That the owner of the vehicle gave the driver permission to use it
  • That the owner knew (or should have known) that the driver was unfit to operate the vehicle safely (either due to inexperience, incompetence or recklessness)
  • That even knowing this, the owner still allowed the driver to use the vehicle
  • That the driver's shortcomings caused an accident

One will notice that the owner must knowingly entrust a vehicle in order for this principle to apply. This would exclude cases where a teen took a vehicle without permission. 

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