“Family Purpose” Doctrine

Vicarious Liability and the Family Purpose Doctrine
Under Georgia Law


As a general rule, a parent in Georgia is not automatically liable for the negligent driving of their child. Under Georgia law, the parent-child relationship does not itself give rise to imputed or vicarious liability. However, there are circumstances where parents can be held liable for their child’s negligent driving under something called the “family purpose doctrine.” Georgia recognizes the “family purpose doctrine” which is a form of vicarious liability making the owner of an at-fault vehicle liable for injury or death arising from a crash caused by the negligent driving of a family member who lived in the owner’s immediate household at the time of the car or truck accident. The Georgia Court of Appeals recently summarized this doctrine as follows: “In Georgia, mere ownership of a vehicle, without more, is insufficient to establish the owner’s liability for the negligence of another driver. But when an owner of a vehicle maintains the vehicle for the use and convenience of his family, that owner may be held liable for the negligence of a family member who was using the vehicle for a family purpose.” Hicks v. Newman, 283 Ga. App. 352, 353 (2007).

Elements of A Claim Under the Georgia Family Purpose Doctrine

In addition to the negligent driver, a car accident victim in Georgia may attempt to hold the owner of the at-fault vehicle liable for his injuries if he can prove the following required elements of the “family purpose doctrine”:

  1. the defendant owned or had an interest in or control over the vehicle alleged to have been negligently driven;
  2. the negligent driver was a family member (i.e. spouse, adult or minor child, sibling, etc.) who lived in the immediate household of the owner;
  3. the owner loaned or provided the vehicle to a family member for the “pleasure, comfort or convenience” of that family member;
  4. the vehicle was being driven with the permission or consent of the owner and for a “family purpose” at the time of the traffic accident; and
  5. sufficient authority or control over the use of that vehicle such that an agency relationship between the owner and family member could be said to have existed.

All five of these elements must be established before a car accident victim can hold a car owner liable for wrongful death or personal injuries under Georgia law.

Contact an Experienced Georgia Automobile Accident Lawyer

Ragland & Jones, LLP has handled auto accident lawsuits which included claims against the driver’s parents under Georgia’s Family Purpose Doctrine. Thus, we have experience with using this unique doctrine to hold parents and other owners of vehicles vicariously liable for injuries or deaths suffered by motorists in car accidents caused by the negligent driving of the owner’s children or other family members. Contact us if you want to ask questions about Georgia’s “Family Purpose Doctrine,” or if you need legal advice from a qualified Atlanta car accident attorney.