Court Discusses “Family Purpose Doctrine” in Recent Car Accident Case

Earlier this month, an appellate court issued a written opinion in a Georgia car accident case requiring the court to discuss the continued applicability of the “family purpose doctrine.” Ultimately, the court found in favor of the plaintiff, holding that the lower court improperly dismissed her case against the owner of a car that was driven by the owner’s grandson when the accident occurred.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was involved in a Georgia car accident that was allegedly caused by the other motorist. The other motorist was driving his grandfather’s car at the time of the accident. When the plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit, she named both the driver of the vehicle as well as the owner as defendants.

The plaintiff was unable to locate and serve the driver of the vehicle with notice of the lawsuit, and the court dismissed the driver on that basis. After the driver was dismissed, the owner of the vehicle filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that since the driver was no longer a party in the lawsuit, he could no longer be held liable.

The Family Purpose Doctrine

The family purpose doctrine is a legal rule that allows for an accident victim to hold the owner of a vehicle liable for any injuries caused as a result of another person’s use of the vehicle. The idea behind the rule is that drivers were too often found to be judgment-proof, meaning that they were insolvent and could not compensate accident victims for their injuries. Thus, the law allowed for accident victims to hold the owner of a vehicle liable when another family member was using the car and caused an accident.

The family purpose doctrine does not allow for an owner to be held liable when the underlying case against the driver of the vehicle is dismissed on the merits. This means that if the driver of the owner’s vehicle is determined to have not been negligent, any case against the owner must similarly fail.

The Court’s Decision

The appellate court determined that since the case against the allegedly at-fault driver was not dismissed on the merits, but it was dismissed due to the plaintiff’s failure to properly serve the driver, the family purpose doctrine still allowed for the plaintiff’s case to proceed against the owner of the vehicle.

Have You Been Injured in a Georgia Car Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in any kind of Georgia car accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the accident, there may be more than one party that is liable for your injuries. If so, it is important that you name all of the parties from the outset to avoid unnecessary delays and potentially dismissal. The dedicated Georgia car accident attorneys at McAleer Law have extensive experience handling all kinds of Georgia car accident cases, and they know what it takes to be successful on behalf of their clients. Call 404-622-5337 to schedule a free consultation today.

See More Posts:

Georgia Court Discusses Government Immunity in Recent Car Accident Case, Georgia Injury Attorney Blog, January 10, 2018.

Georgia Court of Appeals Discusses Venue Selection in Hit-and-Run Car Accident Case, Georgia Injury Attorney Blog, September 14, 2017.

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