family purpose doctrine

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The family purpose doctrine holds a vehicle owner liable for damages caused by their family members when they use their vehicle. The owner does not have to give permission; the doctrine holds that the owner should have control over their vehicle similarly to firearms because of the dangers they pose. Owners, under the doctrine, are required to ensure that family members use their vehicle responsibly or not at all. The doctrine varies by state with some only applying it to parents and their children while others expand the doctrine to include non-family members.

[Last updated in July of 2021 by the Wex Definitions Team]