Every state has special rules that apply to motor vehicle accident liability. Georgia is no different. While our Albany car accident attorneys typically pursue the other driver, there is one unique situation that may apply to your case.
If a member of a household is in a crash while driving a shared family car, the “Family Purpose Doctrine” may allow the accident victim to name the owner of the vehicle as a defendant.
Your Car Accident Lawyer in Albany Must First Prove Fault
Even if your car accident lawyer in Albany can prove the family purpose doctrine applies to your case, that isn’t enough. This won’t matter if they can’t prove that the other driver was negligent.
To be entitled to damages, your lawyer must demonstrate that the other driver was at fault. If they can do this, then they can explore the idea of pursuing damages under the family purpose doctrine.
You Need to Show That the Driver Was Negligent
As with most personal injury cases, your Albany accident attorney must prove that the other driver was negligent. To do this, they must prove the following four (4) things.
- The other driver owed you a duty of care. Since all drivers owe a certain duty of care to other drivers, this shouldn’t be difficult to prove.
- The driver breached this duty of care. The best way to prove this is to show that the other driver received a traffic ticket at the crash scene.
- You were injured. Your car accident lawyer in Albany must demonstrate that you were hurt.
- Your injuries were caused by the other driver’s breach of duty. This is why our Albany accident attorneys always tell our clients to go to the hospital immediately after their accident.
Once your lawyer proves these four elements of negligence, they will move on to prove your damages.
Your Albany Accident Attorney Also Has to Prove Your Damages
If you can’t prove damages, then there is no point in pursuing your lawsuit. These damages can include any or all of the following:
- Medical bills
- Future medical bills
- Lost wages
- Lost future income
- Property damage
- Pain and suffering
- Punitive damages
Nobody is automatically entitled to damages. Your Albany accident attorney can only demand compensation for the losses they can prove.
To Hold the Owner of the Vehicle Liable, You Must Apply the Family Purpose Doctrine
As briefly stated above, Georgia has something called the “Family Purpose Doctrine.” This law allows accident victims to name the owner of the vehicle as a defendant in their car accident lawsuit.
The rationale behind this doctrine is that many households share at least one vehicle. This shared automobile is meant to be used for family-related purposes. For example, the other driver’s family may rely on an older vehicle to go grocery shopping.
Of course, it is not as simple as that. There are certain elements your car accident lawyer in Albany must prove. These will be discussed in detail below.
The Family Purpose Doctrine Has Four Elements
According to OCGA §51-2-2, in order to take advantage of the family purpose doctrine, your Albany accident attorney must prove that the vehicle involved in the crash was used for a family purpose.
The reason you would want to do this is that the vehicle owner probably has more assets than the driver.
For example, imagine that a father lends his car to his teenage son so he can take lawn trimmings to the dump. On the way there, the son accidentally slammed into the behind of another car. The father may be held liable.
The Defendant Owned the Vehicle Involved in the Crash
The first element you must prove, according to the Court of Appeals in Simmons, et al. v Hill, et al, is that the defendant owned the car involved in the crash.
The best way your Albany accident attorney can do this is by obtaining a copy of the vehicle’s title or registration. They can also simply ask the driver whose car they were driving.
The Defendant Made the Vehicle Available to Family Members
You must also prove that the vehicle driven by the other party was available to various family members. This can be tricky to demonstrate. You may have to depose the owner of the vehicle. Or you can send interrogatories to the other driver.
As long as the owner of the car allows other members of their household to drive their car, the family purpose doctrine may apply.
The Other Driver Was a Member of the Defendant’s Immediate Household
As implied above, your car accident in Albany will also have to prove that the driver was part of the defendant’s household. You can prove this by proving that the driver gets mail delivered to the defendant’s address.
There are certainly other ways you can prove this. It all depends on the facts of your case.
The Driver Had the Defendant’s Permission to Use the Car
Your Albany accident attorney must be able to prove that the driver had permission to drive the family car. If the defendant can prove that they didn’t give permission, it can destroy your argument.
Your attorney will need to show not only that they had permission to use the car, but that they were using it for a family purpose.
What Are the Most Common Situations Where the Family Purpose Doctrine Applies?
The most common case where the family purpose doctrine applies is a teenager driving a parent’s car. It may also apply if a young adult lives away at college but still has a room in the family home and stays there regularly.
If You’re Unsure Who to Pursue, Contact an Albany Accident Attorney
Our car accident lawyers in Albany have handled all sorts of cases. Usually, our client’s best chance of collecting damages is by suing the other driver. However, there are times when you may need to sue the owner of the vehicle.
If your Albany accident attorney can prove that the family purpose doctrine applies in your case, you may have other options. This will give you the chance of pursuing the assets of both parties.
We suggest you call our office so you can schedule your free, initial consultation today.