In many households, a single vehicle is shared by multiple family members. Often, this includes teenage children. As a large percentage of motor vehicle accidents are caused by young drivers, parents wonder whether they would be held liable for the negligence of their children if anything were to happen.
A parent will not be held liable for the torts of his child solely because of the parent-child relationship. This relationship, in and of itself, does not create liability. Liability, if any exists, depends upon agency principles. Specifically, whether a parent will be held liable for the negligence of their child, as applied to motor vehicle accidents, is determined by the “Family Car Doctrine.”
Generally, the Family Car Doctrine states that a parent can be held liable for injury/damages caused by their child if: (1) the vehicle is owned, provided, or maintained by the parent, (2) for the customary use, pleasure, and convenience of family members, (3) a family member was driving the car at the time of the accident, (4) and the vehicle was used with the express or implied permission of the parent.
Therefore, in a situation where a parent owns a vehicle, and allows his child to drive it, he will likely be held liable for any damages that follow. Conversely, where a child is forbidden from using the car and takes it without permission, there is certainly an argument against liability.