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There are certain cases in which the owner of a vehicle may be liable for someone else’s use of his vehicle.
An owner may be held liable for negligently entrusting his vehicle to another. The central requirement is that the owner who gives permission to use his vehicle knows that the driver is incompetent to operate it. Thus, an owner who gives permission to an obviously intoxicated person to use his vehicle will be liable for the driver’s actions. Applying the same rule, a car rental company will be liable for an accident caused by a driver known by the company to be unlicensed.
An employer who provides a vehicle to an employee to perform his job duties or to run a special errand, will be held liable for that employee’s actions. This liability is based on the doctrine of respondeat superior.
Family Purpose Doctrine
The head of a family who provides a vehicle to a child, regardless of age, may be liable for the child’s operation of that vehicle. This is known as the family purpose doctrine. The doctrine applies even if the use of the vehicle is for the child’s own pleasure or business. A parent will be deemed to have furnished a vehicle to the child if he physically provides the vehicle, or if he provides the financial resources for the child to purchase the vehicle.
An owner of a vehicle who knowingly permits an unlicensed minor to drive his vehicle is liable with the minor for damages caused by the minor’s negligence or willful misconduct while driving the vehicle. This also applies to a person who gives or furnishes a vehicle to an unlicensed minor, even if the person does not own the vehicle.
The above article is an excerpt from Arizona Laws 101: A Handbook for Non-Lawyers, 2nd Edition (Fenestra Books, 2012), by Donald A. Loose, republished with the author’s permission.
Disclaimer: Laws change constantly. Specific legal advice should be obtained regarding any legal matter. The information contained on this website does not constitute legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is created.
Donald A. Loose is an Arizona attorney, and the author of Arizona Laws 101: A Handbook for Non-Lawyers, and Estate Planning in Arizona: What You Need to Know. Mr. Loose is a regular guest on radio shows featuring local newsmaker interviews. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.