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By Jarome Gautreaux

If you were involved in an automobile accident in Georgia where the person driving the other car was a minor, you might wonder how to proceed. In recent years, the issue of minors causing car accidents has increasingly come under scrutiny, highlighting significant concerns over safety and accountability. As these incidents persist, the legal responsibilities of parents for their children’s actions behind the wheel have become the subject of much discussion in the legal field. Georgia law often holds parents liable for damages resulting from their minor children’s negligence based on various statutes and principles of vicarious liability. As a result, parental supervision and the criteria for allowing minors to drive have been reevaluated, addressing both preventive measures and responses to accidents caused by young drivers.

Legal Considerations To Consider If Involved In A Car Accident With A Minor

If you are involved in an accident with a minor in Georgia, there are several legal considerations and potential avenues for recourse:

1) Parental Responsibility Laws: Georgia has specific laws that may hold parents legally responsible for the actions of their children, including when a minor causes a car accident. Under Georgia’s Family Purpose Doctrine, if a parent or guardian provides a vehicle for the family’s general use, they can be held liable for the negligent actions of their family members while using the car. This doctrine applies if the parent has control or authority over vehicle use. (O.C.G.A. Section 51-2-2 (2020)).

Definition: The family purpose doctrine holds that when the head of a household provides a vehicle for the family’s use, the head of the household can be held liable for negligent driving by any family member using the vehicle. This doctrine is based on the premise that the car is provided for the convenience and benefit of the family as a whole.

Applicability: In Georgia, this doctrine can apply under several conditions:

  1. Ownership or Control: The person held liable (typically a parent or guardian) must own, have purchased, or maintain control over the vehicle.
  2. Family Use: The vehicle must be provided for the use and convenience of the family.
  3. Driver’s Authority: The family member who caused the accident must have been driving the vehicle with the express or implied permission of the person who provided the vehicle.
  4. Family Relationship: The person providing the vehicle and the driver must have an immediate family relationship.

Legal Implications: Under this doctrine, if a minor family member causes an accident while using the family vehicle, the minor can be held responsible, and liability can extend to the parent or guardian who provided the car, which can result in the parent or guardian being accountable for damages, such as medical expenses, property damage, and other losses incurred by the accident victims.

Rationale: The rationale behind the family purpose doctrine is to recognize the control and authority a family head has over using the family’s vehicle and to extend accountability for its use under their supervision. It also acknowledges the reality that minors often depend on their parents or guardians for access to vehicles. It also recognizes the reality that minors usually have a limited amount of insurance available to cover accidents, unlike heads of households.

Impact: Applying this doctrine can significantly impact legal proceedings and insurance claims in the event of a car accident involving a minor. It may influence how damages are recovered and who is involved in a lawsuit.

2) Negligence and Minor as the Driver: If a minor is negligent or reckless in causing the accident (such as speeding or texting while driving), the minor can be held liable. However, because minors often do not have significant financial resources or insurance coverage, parents can be pursued for damages under the Family Purpose Doctrine above or direct negligence (for example, failure to supervise or entrustment of a vehicle).

3) Direct Claims Against Parents: In addition to the family purpose doctrine, a claim can be made directly against the parents if their negligent actions contributed to the accident. For example, if parents knew the minor had a history of reckless driving and still allowed them to use the car, they could be considered negligent.

4) Insurance Considerations: Typically, the insurance policy covering the vehicle involved in the accident is the first recourse for compensation, which is the parent or guardian’s insurance if the vehicle registration is under their name. Insurance policies generally provide coverage for family members, including minors, when they are operating the vehicle.

5) Legal Actions: If insurance does not fully cover damages, you may consider filing a lawsuit against the minor and the parents, which could include recovery for medical expenses, property damage, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

Statute of Limitations: The statute of limitations for filing a personal injury lawsuit in Georgia is generally two years from the accident date. However, for minors who are plaintiffs, this period can be suspended or “tolled” until they reach the age of majority (18 years old), giving them until age 20 to file a claim.


Understanding the family purpose doctrine and other legal considerations in Georgia can be crucial if you are involved in a car accident where a minor is at fault, as it helps clarify who may be legally responsible for the consequences of the accident. It is advisable to consult with an attorney experienced in personal injury or automobile accident law to get guidance specific to your situation. Let Gautreaux Law assist you with the complexities of the law, deal with insurance companies, and represent you in court if necessary. Our firm has highly experienced personal injury lawyers who can guide you with your particular case.

About the Author
Jarome Gautreaux is a personal injury trial lawyer. He represents people who have been seriously injured, as well as the families of people killed because of carelessness or negligence. For over 20 years, he has successfully recovered more than 100 million dollars in a variety of Macon personal injury cases. Jarome’s reputation for client focus and case success has led to other lawyers requesting his assistance with complex personal injury litigation. What drives Jarome every day is his strong belief that the amount of money someone has should not dictate the justice they receive. It is for this reason that he has never worked for corporations, insurance companies, or other interest groups. Instead, he thrives on helping the people who need it most- people who have suffered at the hands of others and deserve compensation.