Family Car Doctrine

FAMILY CAR DOCTRINE

Under the family car doctrine (or family purpose doctrine), the owner of a car is liable for a plaintiff’s personal injuries if the injuries were caused by one of the owner’s family members while driving the car. The doctrine applies only to cases in which the car is owned for family purposes and the owner’s family members had his or her express or implied permission to drive the car.

For example, a farther owns a car and permits all members of his family to drive it. The father’s son sneaks out of the house one night to meet his girlfriend. While driving the father’s car to his girlfriend’s house, the son runs into a pedestrian. The pedestrian filed a personal injury action against the father. If the action is filed in a state that recognizes the family car doctrine, and the pedestrian proves that the son was negligent, then the father will be liable for the pedestrian’s injuries.

Some states do not recognize the family car doctrine.