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The Importance of Understanding the Family Car Doctrine

November 29, 2020 • by James Lambka

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Today’s topic focuses on the issue of the family car doctrine. Many people in Washington may not know a lot, or at all, about the family car doctrine. That’s why we feel it’s imperative to define it for our readers.

So what is the family car doctrine? It’s pretty simple.

What is Family Car Doctrine

The family car doctrine states that a person who owns, maintains or provides a motor vehicle for the use of a member of his or her family, is responsible for the acts of that individual in the operation of that vehicle.

As a parent, if your children (of driving age) are using your vehicle with your permission, you are responsible for anything they may do and have to incur legal responsibility if they break the law in any way. And this applies to any family member – they don’t have to be a minor for the family car doctrine to apply.

What Happens When a Family Member Gets Into an Accident?

If your family member gets into an accident driving your vehicle, there are several factors which govern whether you’ll be held liable for that. Some are obvious, such as whose name is on the title of the vehicle, who initially paid for the vehicle and who continues to pay for it.

For example, if your young adult child did not initially pay for the vehicle, but eventually took ownership and managed the use of, and maintained the vehicle, and then got into an accident, the court would have to weigh the factors to determine if the family car doctrine should apply.

The family car doctrine is important to understand because you might get caught in a vehicle accident where the driver of the other car is a minor or young adult who carries limited insurance. In this case, your recovery options may not just be limited to insurance coverage carried by the at-fault driver.

In these cases, victims should pursue recovery options from the parents or guardians who own, maintain and manage the use of the vehicle involved in the accident. The parents of the at-fault driver may carry additional policies such as an umbrella policy.

Additional Information

In this video, James Lambka discusses a Washington legal concept called the family car doctrine. This simple yet important doctrine is one to pay close attention to as it involves taking on more risk than what you may be comfortable with.

The family car doctrine states that a person who owns or maintains a motor vehicle for the use of a member of his or her family is responsible for the acts of that individual in the operation of that motor vehicle. It is possible to take steps to prevent yourself from being put into this position and to eliminate your personal liability. Watch the video below to find out more.

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Contact your local Wiener & Lambka office today.

One Response

  1. Hayk S says:

    I hope people become responsible and vigilant when driving in order to avoid accidents and permanent injuries. Thank you for sharing this blog!

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