Parental responsibility laws hold a parent legally accountable for infractions committed by their kids. This might mean that the parent will be held financially accountable for property damage or other losses caused by their kid. In most states, the age of majority is 18 years old, though it may be anywhere from 19-21 years old in some places.
Parental liability is similar to vicarious liability, wherein an employer is responsible for negligent or harmful acts perpetrated by their workers. The regulations governing parental liability for children’s acts may be different in each state, and some jurisdictions may restrict the amount of liability for parents.
If My Child Injured Someone, Can I Be Liable?
The answer to this inquiry hinges on your state’s rules, the essence of the injury, and several other aspects. Although parents were not traditionally held responsible for their kids’ actions, today, many states uphold statutes that establish direct and indirect parental liability.
For instance, many states demand parents be financially liable for the damage caused by their children. So, if your kid obliterates someone else’s property, you may have to pay for it.
Vicariously for Your Child’s Actions
Here are some circumstances when parents may be vicariously liable for their minor kids’ conduct:
- Agency Theory: If a minor executes a wrongful act while following directions from their parent, the parent may be vicariously liable.
- Family Car Doctrine: A parent who owns a vehicle will be vicariously liable for their kid’s illegal conduct when the kid drives under the parent’s express or implied consent.
- Permissive Use Doctrine: In some states, a car owner is vicariously liable for anyone’s tortious conduct when driven with the owner’s consent. Under this theory, an owner-parent may be responsible for a minor kid’s prohibited driving.
Direct Liability for Your Child’s Actions
Parents must control their minor kids. Parents may be directly responsible for breaching their obligations to watch and control their children. Also, parents may be directly responsible for their kid’s actions under the theory of negligent entrustment. In other words, if a parent entrusts a kid with an instrument that could reasonably cause a risk of harm to others, then the parent will be answerable for any damage that results.
Are There Limitations to These Laws?
Most states place limitations on the amount of money a parent would have to pay in damages. For instance, Iowa restricts the amount to $2,000 per act. In addition to financial limits, these regulations usually have a minimum age cap. If a kid is too young (usually eight years old and younger), a parent will not be considered responsible.
Parents will no longer be liable for their kid’s actions when they are emancipated. A kid is emancipated when seen as an adult in the eyes of the law—for instance, when they get married or join the military. A court must state that the kid is emancipated.
Do These Laws Apply to Anyone Else?
Yes, these rules usually apply to anyone with custody and control over youth. This can include grandparents, aunts and uncles, step-parents, and even non-relatives.
A third party becomes a kid’s custodian when:
- Parents entrust their child to the third party
- The third-party agrees to supervise the child, and
- The third party is physically present with the child.
What About Criminal Responsibility?
In some states, parents may be criminally answerable for their failure to exercise owed care over the conduct of their kids. For example, in California, it is a misdemeanor for a parent to fail to exercise reasonable care over their offspring. If convicted, you could face up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine.
What Types of Acts do Parental Responsibility Laws Cover?
Parental responsibility regulations may cover any civil infractions committed by a child. These may include personal injury torts, property damage, or thefts. Most state statutes dealing with parental liability directly address property damage.
Some common examples where a parent may be held liable for civil violations committed by their kid may include:
- Defacement or demolition of government property, particularly monuments
- Vandalism on school property
- Demolition of property that is inspired by a hate crime, such as defacing a church, synagogue, or temple
What Are the Consequences for the Parent?
Depending on the act perpetrated by the minor, the parent may have to face legal consequences. In most instances, the consequences may direct the parent to pay a damages award to the plaintiff to compensate them for financial losses caused by the kid. These may cover hospital costs, medical treatment, and property damage expenses.
In many jurisdictions, the parent may also be directed to repay the state for any losses connected with the juvenile transgression. For instance, the parent may have to pay for the expenditure of court fees associated with the violation. The parent and child may also face separate criminal charges in many instances.
What Types of Legal Theories Are Involved With Parental Liability Claims?
Most parental liability laws are based on statutes that define the parent’s liability. In many circumstances, legal theories are also based on common law (case law) principles such as:
- Vicarious liability: Parental responsibility or liability for a personal injury offense or civil transgression may be based on liability principles analogous to those between an employer and employee
- Parental Negligence or Negligent Supervision: A parent may become responsible for the kid’s acts if they know that the kid needs to be restrained but fails to take reasonable precautions to control them. Negligent supervision can also apply to other adults such as legal guardians, grandparents, close relatives, or others who control the child. Negligent care usually involves failure to restrict access to hazardous items such as firearms.
- “Family Car Doctrine”: About half of the U.S. states enforce this doctrine, which holds the car owner liable for damage caused by another family member while driving (including minors). The car owner must consent to the other individual’s use to be held responsible. The family car doctrine usually applies regardless of whether the minor was included in a family insurance policy.
Parental liability can also be based on a mixture of these legal theories. Be sure to confer with a lawyer if you need clarification on your state’s regulations.
What Is Vicarious Liability?
Vicarious liability is the method of holding a person responsible for the acts of another individual. Often, the notion of vicarious liability applies to employer liability for the acts of their workers.
Do I Need to Hire a Lawyer for Parental Responsibility in a Civil Claim?
Parental responsibility rules can place weighty commitments on a parent or guardian. It can often be challenging to specify the precise amount of liability for each individual involved.
If you need guidance or representation in a civil lawsuit, you may wish to consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer.
The area of law that deals in personal injury cases is extensive and encircles a wide variety of cases in which victims were injured due to the negligence of others. Fortunately, our database of personal injury lawyers is also broad. It is composed of excellent attorneys who specialize in a wide variety, but an attorney in your area can resolve if you have any legal defenses in your favor.