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What is the 'family car doctrine' in Connecticut?

It is an unfortunate fact of modern life in the United States that automobile accidents are quite common, and that they cause millions of dollars in damage to property and in medical costs to injured people every year. With the sheer number of cars on the roads, this is unlikely to change anytime soon. Further, the more time one spends driving, such as during a commute, the more likely it is one could be the victim of another driver's negligence. The civil law exists, in part, to allow those hurt at the fault of someone else to recover damages from that individual to help make the victim whole.

But what happens if the negligent individual doesn't have the ability to pay anything? For example, let's say the accident was caused by an 18-year-old high school student driving his father's car, who was texting and driving. Is it likely that person will be able to deal with damages assessed against him? Probably not. However, there are legal doctrines that may help a plaintiff in such circumstances.

One of these is Connecticut's "family car" doctrine. This law assumes that the owner of a vehicle is responsible for accidents caused by the negligence of his or her spouse, parent or child. This means that, in the above example, it might be possible to reach the father's assets in a civil suit. Now, there is a defense to this liability, and that is that the operator of the vehicle did not have authorization to use it at the time of the accident. However, it is the vehicle owner's burden to prove that the accident occurred while the car was being driven without such permission.

As can be seen, vicarious liability issues can be quite complex, and vary greatly depending on the facts of the case. However, Connecticut residents who have been injured in vehicular accidents may wish to explore all of their legal options for holding parties civilly liable.

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