Many Georgia parents think they are not responsible for the actions of their children once they are over 18 or 21, but that is not necessarily the case. Under the Georgia Family Purpose Doctrine, the test is whether the child “was using the car for a purpose for which the parent provided it with the permission of the parent either expressed or implied.”
Hicks v. Newman, 283 Ga. App. 352, 353 (2007).
To sue the parent for the child driving a car, four criteria must be met:
1) the owner of the vehicle must have given permission to a family member to drive the vehicle;
2) the vehicle’s owner must have relinquished control of the vehicle to the family member;
3) the negligent driver must be an immediate family member and must have lived in the same household (i.e. spouse, adult or minor child, sibling, etc.);
4) the vehicle must be engaged in a family purpose.
In other words, if your 24 year old is using the family car with your permission to go to the movies and crashes, you can be held liable under the family purpose doctrine. As a practical matter, so long as you disclosed all driving age people in your household to the insurance company, you are both insured by the car’s policy and will be defended by your Georgia car insurance company.
Our Savannah Georgia car accident lawyers deal with complex insurance coverage cases frequently, so feel free to contact us with any questions.