Negligent Entrustment: Definition, FAQ and More

What is Negligent Entrustment?

Negligent entrustment from a person/manager occurs when a vehicle is entrusted to a driver when they know, or considering the circumstances, should know, that the driver is incompetent or unfit to drive, but nevertheless entrusts the vehicle to the driver’s care. The tort of negligent entrustment is based upon the principle that a person should not entrust a dangerous instrument to an unfit individual who may use it in a manner involving an unreasonable risk of harm to that individual or others.


Negligent Entrustment of an Auto

Specifically regarding fleet safety technology, if management identifies risky driving behaviors and does not make effective efforts to correct them, the fleet can be considered liable for not acting appropriately regarding known risk. The identification of risk increases negligent entrustment exposure for the company if it does not act in a responsible fashion to correct the identified risky behaviors and drivers.


Negligent Entrustment Interrogatories

In a courtroom situation, the defendant (fleet) could be asked if they were aware that the driver/vehicle in question posed a known level of risk.  By this time in the litigation process, the plaintiffs attorneys are in possession of all related safety reports and technology insights. That data can be extracted from telematic solutions which typically focus on risky driving behaviors such as aggressive accelerations, turning, or braking.  If the fleet has implemented video technology, it can also provide insight regarding such behaviors as unsafe following distance, near misses, failure to stop at red lights or stop signs, and distracted driving, such as the use of a cell phone while operating the vehicle.


How Negligent Entrustment Applies to Insurance Coverage

Many commercial auto insurance policies limit coverage with entrustment exclusions.  This means the insurer is relying on the insured to properly vet its drivers.  Insurance companies don’t want to pay claims resulting from the insured’s poor assessment of character for any covered driver.  The covered company is in the greatest position to safeguard driver character and their vehicles and should therefore incur the risk of an associated loss.  An example would be if an insured hired a driver with multiple DUI infractions and that driver had an accident.  This would be considered an entrustment exclusion since the fleet was entrusted with the responsibility for hiring and would have been expected to rely on industry standard hiring and onboarding practices.


Examples of Negligent Entrustment

Some examples of negligent entrustment, specifically around driver behavior, would be:

  • A driver with a known frequency of cell phone misuse while driving is involved in an at-fault rear-end collision.
  • A driver with a known frequency to excessively speed is involved in an accident.
  • A driver with a known frequency of unsafe following distance is involved in an at-fault rear-end collision.
  • A driver with a known frequency of failing to stop fully at stop signs or stop for red light is involved in an at-fault intersection accident.


How Does LifeSaver Mobile Help a Company Mitigate a Negligent Entrustment Claim?

Compared to most fleet safety technologies, the approach of the LifeSaver Mobile solution provides a greater degree of protection against being declared guilty of negligent entrustment.


While most technologies identify safety issues to the driver and fleet management and then rely on feedback and coaching to correct the issue, the management of cell phone distraction will restrict the behavior from happening in the first place.