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Explaining the Family Car Doctrine

Like many of those that we here at Miller, Rosnick, D’Amico, August and Butler, P.C. have helped in the past, your primary concern after having been involved in a car accident in Bridgeport is likely how you will be able to afford your injury expenses. If the other driver was at fault, then you may be able to recover beyond what his or her insurance company is willing to pay. Yet what if the other driver is a teen? He or she likely has little in the way of added resources. However, a unique legal doctrine that Connecticut courts subscribe to may allow you to hold his or her parents liable.

The Family Car Doctrine states that the owner of a car can be held responsible for any damages that a family member causes with it.  That includes parents, spouses and children. The reasoning behind this doctrine is that a vehicle owner should not be entrusting it to one who may not exercise proper care in driving it. However, it does not automatically apply in all cases.

According to the Connecticut Civil Jury Instructions, the owner of the vehicle can only be held liable if the driver had his or her consent to use it. In this case, the burden of proof lies with the owner to show such a lack of authorization. Yet proving this may prove difficult except in cases where the teen was not licensed to drive. Claims that the teen was grounded from using the car or that he or she took it without his or her parents’ permission may be easily refuted.

You can learn more about assigning liability in a car accident by continuing to explore our site.


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