23rd September 2023     Sophia Hogg

Understanding the Family Purpose Doctrine in Texas

Young drivers are more likely to endanger the lives of Texas road users than seasoned ones. Their inexperience behind the wheel makes them more susceptible to distraction and losing their situational awareness. 

However, the law remains the same. You may file a personal injury claim to receive compensation when you’re involved in an accident caused by a teen driver. Unfortunately, teen drivers often don’t have many assets from which you can recover fair compensation for your damages. That’s where the family purpose doctrine comes in – typically referred to as “negligent entrustment”.

The family purpose doctrine allows victims to hold parents or guardians financially responsible for damages when their teen drivers cause an accident. Here is everything you need to know about the family purpose doctrine and when it can come into effect in a Texas personal injury claim.

What Is the Family Purpose Doctrine in Texas?

The family purpose doctrine holds the vehicle owner accountable for the damages caused by a family member’s negligence while using their vehicle. Under the dogma, the owners should have control over their cars and ensure that family members use them responsibly or not at all.

For example, a car owner will assume responsibility for the damages caused if they allow their spouse or child to drive their car, which leads to an accident. This holds true even if the car owner did not permit the family member to drive the vehicle.

You should also keep in mind that the Texas family purpose doctrine is not limited to a parent-child relationship. Instead, any person who provides a vehicle for the general use of their family may be held liable for the damages caused by any family member, regardless of their age.

Elements of a Claim Under the Family Purpose Doctrine

Typically, the Texas family purpose doctrine treats the family member as an agent of the car owner, hence liable for their negligence. However, you can only recover for damages under the family purpose doctrine when you prove that:

1. The Owner Maintained Control and Ownership of the Vehicle

While this element may seem straightforward, that’s not always the case. Owning a vehicle does not necessarily mean that the owner controls the vehicle’s use. However, you can use various factors, such as monthly car payments or payments for repairs, so that the owner has control of the vehicle.

2. The Vehicle Was Provided for the General Use, Convenience, or Pleasure of the Family

You should also demonstrate that the vehicle involved was previously used as a family vehicle, even if it was not used for a family purpose during the accident. This includes proving that the vehicle was used for family activities such as grocery shopping and family outings.

3. The Negligent Driver Was a Member of the Owner’s Family or Household

You must also prove that the vehicle’s driver was a member of the family or household of the person who had control over the vehicle. This may include the car owner’s spouse, adult or minor child, sibling, and anyone living with them.

4. The Owner Gave Permission or Consent for the Use of Their Vehicle

The injured party must also show that the at-fault driver used the car with the owner’s knowledge, approval, or consent. Consent may also be implied. Therefore, you won’t necessarily have to prove that the car owner had direct knowledge of or had given express consent. For example, the car owner may still be liable if a family member they allowed to use the vehicle lends it to another person without their permission.

When Can the Family Purpose Doctrine Apply to a Texas Car Crash?

Personal injury claims invoking the family purpose doctrine are more complex and require a thorough investigation. In addition to proving the driver’s negligence, an injured victim must demonstrate the elements of the family purpose doctrine. Some of the scenarios where your best option is to file a claim against the car owner include:

  • Accidents involving negligent teen drivers: A teen driver intentionally causes an accident after their parents knowingly allow them to drive their vehicle even after demonstrating they were a danger to others.
  • Crashes involving a family vehicle: You may also use the family purpose doctrine if the at-fault teen was driving a family vehicle during the accident.
  • Accidents involving uninsured teen motorists: This happens when an unlicensed or uninsured teen borrows a vehicle and causes an accident. The parents will have to pay for the damages out of their own insurance policies.

Typically, car owners are liable for the actions of family members who use their vehicles. An attorney can help you build a successful claim against the car owner, regardless of whether they were in the car or not.

Consult an Experienced Car Accident Lawyer at Dale R. Rose, PLLC

The Texas Family Purpose Doctrine holds the car owner responsible for a family member’s negligence. This is especially useful when you’re injured in a Texas auto accident caused by a teen driver who may not be financially stable to pay for your injuries. In such cases, you can hold the parent owner responsible for the damages that their children caused. Unfortunately, the Texas family purpose doctrine is not as straightforward as it appears, and car owners will do everything possible to try and escape liability.

Dale R. Rose, PLLC, can help you use the family purpose doctrine to receive full and fair compensation. For 27 years, we have handled personal injury lawsuits, which included claims against car owners and parents who were not even present when the accident happened. We are ready to fight for a settlement that will cover your current and future medical and other financial losses, even if it means going to court. Fill out our contact form or call us at (972) 634-ROSE (7673) to learn more about how we can use this unique doctrine and other tactics to help your claim.


Dale R. Rose

Personal Injury Lawyer

If you or someone you know has been injured in an accident, has been a victim of a workplace accident, or any other personal injury, Dale Rose is the best attorney for you in McKinney, Texas. With 25+ years of experience, Dale is committed to helping you get the compensation & justice you deserve.

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