Injured in an Alabama Auto Accident: Whose Car Was that Anyway?
When it comes to automobile accidents, liability can go beyond just simply the driver of a car or truck, but also to the vehicle's owner. As a Birmingham personal injury lawyer, I have represented enough car, truck and SUV accident victims to know that an incompetent driver is just one piece in the liability puzzle. For any driver, passenger or pedestrian hurt by the actions of another driver, you know the monetary, physical and psychological costs of such accidents.
But whether you have been injured by a drunk driver, an inexperienced driver or just someone who was distracted from the primary responsibility of operating a motor vehicle, the owner of that vehicle also has a responsibility NOT to lend or otherwise offer the use of his or her car to an incompetent driver.
If you or I lend our vehicle to another person, we are each subject to liability for compensatory and punitive damages if that driver causes a crash that results in personal injury to another. The key here is competency.
Every vehicle owner has a legal duty to the driving public, as well as the pedestrians and bicycle riders who share the road with automobiles, not to provide a vehicle to someone who is not competent to drive that car or truck. You must also understand that incompetency takes many forms, such as inexperience (a new driver or someone who is not licensed for that type of vehicle), intoxication (drunk or otherwise impaired from alcohol, illicit drugs, or even prescription medication), or someone with a bad driving record (even Aunt Millie, if she has too many speeding tickets).
So what do you have to look for? The factors that contribute to a cause of action for negligent and/or wanton entrustment of a vehicle are the following:
(1) The entrustment of a vehicle; (2) to an incompetent driver; (3) with the knowledge that the person is incompetent to operate a motor vehicle; (4) proximate cause; and finally (5) damages caused by that person in the operation of the vehicle.
In Alabama, the test would be whether or not the person who entrusted their motor vehicle knew that they were providing their car or truck to an incompetent driver; or from the circumstances could have or should have known of that driver’s incompetence ahead of time. A personal injury attorney will certainly try to prove this by showing specific acts of incompetency that the person giving the keys knew or should have known about.