Do you remember when you were a child and you went into a drug store or another shop and someone told you, “If you break it, you have to pay for it.” This warning probably reinforced your parents’ orders not to touch anything, because you knew if you broke something, your parents would have to pay for it, then you’d have to find a way to pay them back. They’d have to pay because parents are ultimately responsible for their children’s actions.
You may already know that when a minor engages in criminal behavior, they may go to juvenile court and be ordered to pay fines and pay restitution for the damage they caused. Since most minors don’t have money, usually this means once again, their parents are on the hook for the tab. Whether or not the minor ever pay the parents back is not known, but the one thing we know for sure is that it’s the child’s parents who have to pay for their children’s mistakes unless the child has money stashed in a bank account somewhere, which is not impossible, but rare.
So, what if a minor accidentally injures someone else, can the minor’s parents be liable for any damages their child caused?
Parents Can Be Liable for Their Children’s Acts
As with property damage and criminal behavior, parents can also be held legally liable when their children accidentally injure other people. For instance, if a teenager accidentally hits a friend in the face with a baseball bat, or if an 8th grader accidentally hurts a friend while playing with fireworks, or if a teenage girl accidentally rides her bicycle into a toddler, seriously injuring him – in all of these situations the minor’s parents can be held responsible for their child’s actions, especially if the parent was negligent in some way.
While it may seem unfair for a parent to be held liable for their child’s mistakes, the legal system considers it more unfair to force the victim to be financially responsible for the child’s actions. The line of thinking is that innocent victims shouldn’t have to bear the burden of medical expenses and lost income due to a child’s misbehavior, accident, or wrongdoing.
How Long Are Parents Responsible For?
In all states, parents are generally liable for their children’s actions until they reach the age of majority, which is 18. So, no matter what your child does, whether they damage someone else’s property, or they steal something, or they intentionally or unintentionally injure someone, it’s important to realize that as their parent, you can be held responsible for your child’s actions, especially when they’re harmful and cost innocent victims money.