Family-Automobile Doctrine Law and Legal Definition

Family-Automobile Doctrine is principle of tort law whereby an owner of a vehicle is made liable for injuries or damage caused by a family member's negligent driving. This is based on the premise that an automobile is provided by the head of the household for the family's use. Therefore the operator of the automobile acts as an agent of the owner. If a husband is the owner of a car and his wife uses it for one of the purposes for which it was purchased, such as grocery shopping, then the wife is acting as the husband's agent in carrying out such purpose. The individual upon whom liability is sought to be imposed must own, provide, or maintain an automobile. The automobile must exist for the general use, pleasure, and convenience of the family. Many states have abolished this rule.

This is also known as family car doctrine or family purpose rule.