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Warning to Parents Who Let Other Family Members Drive Their Car

Most teens and even young adults, dream of their parents gifting them a car, giving them freedom to visit friends, and drive themselves to school and extracurricular activities, but this gift can have unintended consequences if the recipient drives recklessly. 

Under the Family Purpose Doctrine, a parent who gives his or her child permission to use or financially supports the purchase of a vehicle can be held liable if that child gets into an accident. 

That is exactly what happened in a recent case in Paradise Valley, AZ. 

Edward and Sandra Foraker provided financial support, by way of co-signing a loan, to their son John Foraker with respect to the purchase and maintenance of the vehicle and thereby furnished it to him. The Foraker’s also purchased his car insurance in their names, paid the bill on the credit card used for gas, and made the majority of their son’s monthly payments, although he paid them back when he had the odd job. 

John is 26 years old and his parents contested that he is an adult “who made his own decisions.” However, even though John was technically an adult, he was mostly unemployed and living with his parents rent free. The courts found that he would have been unable to finance a vehicle without his parents financial aid. 

This means the Family Purpose Doctrine applies and John’s parents are just as liable for his actions as he is. 

The court is not allowing parents to escape liability for their children’s actions when they are financially supporting the use of a vehicle. The law also applies to parents loaning their children a car or allowing them to use a communal family vehicle. Just like the Forakers, you may face financial liability if your child, teen or adult, gets into an accident in a car you have funded. 

If you have questions about the Family Purpose Doctrine or parental responsibility for motor vehicle accidents, please contact an experienced personal injury attorney to learn more.

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