Can a vehicle owner be liable for a collision caused by a different member of the household? To put it simply, yes. All drivers are expected to know and abide by the Rules of the Road for the safe use and operation of a vehicle. Colorado law recognizes the “family car doctrine” as a separate cause of action available to victims of personal injury. This doctrine holds parents responsible for another person’s injuries if they lend the family car to a teenager who directly caused an accident.
Elements of the Family Car Doctrine
A victim of personal injury can establish the Family Car Doctrine by four elements: (1) the defendant was the head of the household; (2) the vehicle was used by a member of the household; (3) the defendant had control over the use of the vehicle; and (4) the vehicle was used with the express or implied permission of the defendant.
How Do I Protect Myself?
First and foremost, all parents who are allowing their children to operate a household vehicle should be sure they understand the Rules of the Road. A good resource for helping educate children is by reviewing the Colorado Driver Handbook. The purpose of the Handbook is to provide Colorado citizens with information on how to become a safe driver. It contains a summary of the laws, rules and safe driving practices applicable to all Colorado motorists.
Taken a step further, parents should utilize the Rules of the Road in practical experiences. It is one thing for children to learn rules in order to get a driver’s permit and license, but it is something entirely different for them to know the rules and see how they are applied on the roads in Colorado. There is no substitute for a commonsense approach to safety.
Finally, it is particularly wise for parents to increase their insurance coverage on any vehicle a teenage member of the household might be using. This is particularly true if the parents have considerable assets, such as real estate and vehicles. Most personal injury lawyers will not go after personal assets if there is sufficient insurance coverage.
Contact our Denver Personal Injury Lawyers
For practical purposes, the Denver personal injury lawyers at Bowman & Chamberlain, LLC, strongly suggest proper education and experience for all drivers. Parents should take time to educate and allow for pragmatic experience before allowing their teenage children to borrow a household vehicle.
If you have been involved in an accident, contact the Colorado personal injury law firm of Bowman & Chamberlain, LLC, at 720.863.6904 or email us for your free consultation. Our lawyers handle a wide range of personal injury cases, including Motor Vehicle Accidents, Bicycle Accidents, Pedestrian Accidents, Slip & Fall Accidents, and Dog Bites & Attacks. We service Arvada, Aurora, Boulder, Broomfield, Denver, Commerce City, Lakewood, Littleton, Thornton, Westminster, Wheat Ridge, and other parts of metropolitan Denver, Colorado.