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What Does Negligent Entrustment to Unlicensed Driver Mean?

If someone lends their vehicle to an unlicensed driver, that person is negligent per se according to Texas laws.

All drivers when they receive their license agree to a standard of behavior in order to be given the privilege to drive their vehicle on public motorways. This an agreement between a citizen in that state and the state government basically saying,"I won't do things that violate the laws put in place and won't harm other people while being allowed to drive." However, when someone is unlicensed, they have not gone through any of the testing parameters and background checks put in place by the state to keep dangerous drivers off the road.

This usually happens with people who have lost their license due to multiple DUI convictions or they have had so many moving violations that the judge presiding over their last moving violation case decided to revoke their license because they were deems such a danger to the public.

In this article we'll explain how the owner of a vehicle can be held liable for negligently entrusting a motor vehicle to an unlicensed driver.

Questions answered in this article:

  • What is negligence per se?
  • Why is lending a car to an unlicensed driver is a bad idea?
  • What are some scenarios where negligence per se applies?
  • Why do I need an attorney if struck by an unlicensed driver?

What is negligence per se and what does Texas law say about it?

First and foremost, negligence per se is not like ordinary negligence (read about ordinary negligence here). Ordinary negligence, as you probably know, is based on the reasonable person standard. That means that something is considered negligence when a party has acted unlike a reasonable person should. Yet, negligence per se is its own animal. It is instead based on the idea of violating statute. When someone has broken the law and caused harm, then they have committed negligence per se.

For example, let's say that Jimmy, who is licensed, let his unlicensed girlfriend Sarah drive his vehicle to the airport to pickup her sister coming home from college. On the way, Sarah crosses the center line while digging around in the back seat for her cell phone and strikes another driver head-on.

Not only was Sarah negligent and violated the law by taking her eyes off the road to look for her cell phone, but so was Jimmy, for letting her drive his vehicle without her being properly licensed. The driver that was struck by Jimmy's Tahoe could go after Sarah and Jimmy because Jimmy broke the law by letting her drive his vehicle.

Negligent Entrustment of Vehicle to an Unlicensed Driver

With that definition in mind, it may become clear that entrusting one's vehicle to an unlicensed driver is negligent per se. It endangers everyone else on the road (drivers and pedestrians alike), and it is against the law. The particular statute on this matter is from the Texas Transportation Code:

Sec. 521.458. PERMITTING UNAUTHORIZED PERSON TO DRIVE. (a) A person may not knowingly permit or cause the person's child or ward who is under 18 years of age to operate a motor vehicle on a highway in violation of this chapter.
(b) A person may not authorize or knowingly permit a motor vehicle owned by or under the control of the person to be operated on a highway by any person in violation of this chapter.

The statute is pretty clear. The Texas Transportation Code states that a "a person may not knowingly permit" someone to drive who is not authorized/licensed to do so.

Reminder: Why Drivers Get Licenses

Although the law is pretty clear that someone who is not licensed to drive should not do so, it may raise a question of why is this so important? Can you imagine if no other drivers on the road had to be licensed? The repercussions would be terrifying, and there would be accidents everywhere. So, it makes sense then that a license deems you fit to legally drive a vehicle. We can all agree that's a pretty fair way to judge if someone should get behind the wheel or not. And since we can all agree on that, we can all agree that loaning a vehicle to someone who is not licensed to drive is clearly dangerous. And this is why Texas courts have deemed it negligence per se to do so.

Our Car Accident Attorneys Want You to Know...

If you've been injured by an unlicensed driver, please give us a call. Our experienced car accident lawyers know what the law has to say about loaning a vehicle to an unlicensed driver, and we know how to pursue a defendant that does this. Call us at (855) 326-0000 now.

Related Articles For Further Reading:

Not only is what we're talking about here (negligent entrustment) a negligence per se argument, there are several others that Texas courts have deemed negligence per se. Those are:

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