When Do Parents Become Liable for Their Children's Actions?

When Do Parents Become Liable for Their Children's Actions?

In some cases, parents can be held liable for the acts of their children. Generally, this liability only applies during certain ages of the child’s life. When applicable, the parents will become parties to criminal cases or civil lawsuits in lieu of their children. Learn about how parental liability can affect you in both the criminal and civil contexts.

When It Applies

Parental liability does not exist forever. Instead, it covers only a certain age range of a child’s life. Most jurisdictions use the concept for children aged eight and above. The liability continues for approximately ten years until the child reaches the age of majority. Once the child is considered an adult, he or she will be solely liable.

Criminal Liability for Parents

Criminal statues holding parents responsible for the actions of a child have been around for over a century. Many of the early laws addressed contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Most modern laws deal with allowing minors to access guns or other dangerous weapons. There are also a slew of contemporary laws addressing illegal acts by a minor on the internet. These technology crimes shift liability to the parents for hacking attempts made by the child.

Civil Liability for Parents

The majority of states hold parents financially responsible for certain acts performed by their children. Usually, parents are held liable for their child’s intentional act of property damage. When the case is proven, the parents must compensate the plaintiff for the damages that ensued. The good news is that some jurisdictions will put a ceiling on the amount of money a plaintiff can seek from parents. For example, in Utah, a parent can only be liable for up to $2,000 in property damages. Utah Code Section 78(A)-6-1113 also raises the maximum liability amount to $5,000 if the youth acts in furtherance of gang activity.

Other Types of Parental Liability

Parental liability issues can arise under other circumstances as well. Under Utah law, a person who owns a vehicle will be held liable for damages caused by a minor driver. Utah Code Section 53-2-212 holds owners joint and severally liable in this situation. However, the amount of liability will be capped at the minimum limit for car insurance in the state. A car insurance policy which covers all drivers of the vehicle will help the owner avoid liability.

If you need help with a parental liability issue, contact the family law attorney at Spencer and Collier PLLC. Spencer Collier can also help if the issue involves criminal law or personal injury law.

Tags: parental rights, parenting, criminal liability

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