When an adult intentionally causes injury to another adult, the injured adult can often hold the other adult liable. But what happens when the injury was caused not by an adult, but by a child?
When a child causes intentional injury to another person, the parents may be held liable in some situations. Many states have “parental responsibility” laws, which allow an injured person to seek compensation from the parents of a child who causes an injury.
Courts reason that parents have a legal duty to take reasonable steps to supervise their children. Therefore, if the child harms someone because the parent failed to supervise the child in a reasonable manner, it makes sense to hold the parents liable.
States vary widely on the limitations they place on parental responsibility laws, so the point at which a parent can be held liable “kicks in” for different reasons in different states. Generally speaking, however, in every situation the child must be a minor under age 18 (or 21 in some states).
For example, California’s statute states that parents can be held liable for any “willful misconduct “ by their child under age 18 if that misconduct causes injury, death or property damage. In Illinois, parents may be held liable for “willful or malicious property damage or acts causing personal injury,” up to a total of $20,000 per incident. Maine’s law is similar, except that it limits parental damages to $800.
In New Jersey, parents may be held liable for a child’s actions that result in damage to roads, public utilities, or school property. The limit of a parent’s financial responsibility in these situations is $5,000.
Several states also hold parents liable for intentional or negligent acts causing harm that a child performs while driving a car. A lawyer in your state or your auto insurance policy can help you better understand parental liability for teen drivers.
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The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney/client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.