The Family Use Doctrine under Nevada Law is a liability doctrine made under public policy grounds to provide additional protection for the public. Under NRS 41.440, it implies liability against other family members in a form of strict liability without regard to whether the driver was driving for a family purpose. “Any liability imposed upon a wife, husband, son, daughter, father, mother, brother, sister or other immediate member of a family arising out of his or her driving and operating a motor vehicle upon a highway with the permission, express or implied, of such owner is hereby imposed upon the owner of the motor vehicle, and such owner shall be jointly and severally liable with his or her wife, husband, son, daughter, father, mother, brother, sister or other immediate member of a family for any damages proximately resulting from such negligence or willful misconduct, and such negligent or willful misconduct shall be imputed to the owner of the motor vehicle for all purposes of civil damages. “ NRS 41.440
Thus, a driver of a vehicle who is driving his parents car is, by virtue of his family relationship, driving their car with extra liability protection of those parents—whether they know it or not. Therefore, it is imperative that parents and family members who allow other family members to drive their car, understand that they need adequate insurance to cover their assets in the event of a catastrophic event where someone is injured and sues them simply because they are blood related to the tortfeasor.
The Nevada supreme Court clarified in Andrew E. ARATA; Rocque Pucci; and Sherri A. Pucci, Appellants, v. Betty S. FAUBION, (2007), two things in this Court ruling. First, they stated that NRS 41.440 is constitutional and is rationally related to a legitimate State purpose finding that public policy was protected by this law, and that, in this circumstance, a protected class (i.e. a family) was not constitutionally protected with strict scrutiny review. Further, the Court specified that “step parents” can be held liable under this rule as they could be deemed an “immediate family member” if a jury decided the stepparent was an immediate family member. In essence the Court decided the jury must also make the decision of whether the step parent is a liable party, and it is not automatically assumed under Nevada Law. If you are a victim of a tortfeasor who may have been driving another family member’s vehicle call Benson & Bingham to fully explain your legal rights.