Children misbehave. It is just a part of growing up. But when misbehavior turns to something more serious, property, and even other people, may be damaged. If something bad happens involving one of your children – are you then legally responsible for the damages caused?
Parental liability usually does not begin until a child is 8-years old and ends at the age of majority, which is 18, in most states. Children’s offenses can be civil or criminal in nature. While many acts can trigger both civil and criminal legal repercussions, some will be one or the other.
In a civil case, a lawsuit is brought seeking monetary damages. If your child faces civil charges, you will be responsible for any monetary damages caused by the child’s actions. You are liable only for compensating the injured person for any damages. Some state’s laws are stiffer than others in civil cases.
In criminal cases, charges are brought by the government for violations of criminal law.
Examples of criminal liability include firearm access and Internet crime-related laws. Many states have laws on the books that make it a crime for an adult to leave a firearm where a child may access it. And in some cases, parents may be held responsible for a child’s illegal actions on the Internet.
Most states have parental liability laws making parents responsible and liable for any damage caused by willful or malicious actions causing personal injury. In some states, parents also are responsible for damages done to a place of worship. The monetary amount for which parents are responsible varies from state to state.
A minor child is considered a resident of the same state in which the legal guardian resides. If parents reside in two different states, each parent is responsible for the child’s actions while in their care.
The reasoning behind these laws is that parents have a legal duty to take reasonable measures to insure their child does not do harm to another person or to that person’s property. If the parent fails to uphold these standards, they are then legally responsible for the damage that results.
If you have legal questions, please consult our Online Legal Directory to find an attorney in your area.