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Family Car Doctrine

Hughes Robbins, P.S. Dec. 17, 2012

Parents often wonder whether they will be liable for any injuries resulting from their children crashing their vehicle. Unfortunately, in Washington, the answer is yes in most situations. A parent can be held liable for injury or damages caused by a family member driver if:

  1. The vehicle is owned, provided or maintained by the parent

  2. The vehicle is generally used for pleasure and convenience of family members

  3. A family member was driving the car at the time of the accident; and

  4. The vehicle was used with the express or implied permission of the parent.

Courts will consider a few factors in assessing whether a parent is the “owner” of a car. Some of these factors are (1) who paid for the vehicle; (2) who had the right to control the use of the vehicle; (3) in whose name the title is held; or (4) the intent of the parents regarding ownership of the vehicle.

Parents may also be liable for a third person operating a family vehicle if the vehicle was entrusted to the third party.

If you or someone you know has been involved in an accident involving a family car, it is important to contact an attorney as soon as possible. If you have questions or need legal representation, contact Scott Hughes.