All parents assume the responsibility of regulating the behavior of their children. However, to what extent are parents liable for the acts of their kids? The area of law known as parental liability addresses this question. Most jurisdictions have laws dealing with this topic and they vary from state to state. Parental liability cases may arise as criminal or civil matters.
Who The Laws Cover
These laws are intended to cover children under the age of majority. In general, this means children who are under 18 years of age. Most states don’t impose liability until the child is at least eight years old. Children younger than this are presumed to incapable of fully comprehending their actions. Hence, they are usually not subject to criminal or civil regulations.
How Parents Can Be Criminally Liable
Criminal liability for parents typically occurs with computer crimes and firearm offenses. Parents are held in joint and several liability if their child commits a willful act of computer crime. Activities such as hacking, online fraud, or software pirating make up some of the most common offenses. Illegal downloads of music or movies can also lead to parental liability.
Most states make it illegal to allow a child to access a firearm. These “Child Access Prevention” laws vary in the behavior they prohibit. Some punish parents for the negligent storage of firearms regardless if the child actually gains access. Others require that the child actually possess or use the firearm. Some states also allow exceptions for legal hunting purposes. Access Prevention laws may also have civil counterparts.
When Civil Liability May be Imposed
Parents may be civilly liable for both the intentional and negligent torts of their children. The typical lawsuit will involve some type of property damage. In such a case the parent may be held responsible through the theory of vicarious liability. If found guilty they will have to pay the monetary value of the damage.
Parents can also be sued for negligent entrustment. This cause of action is applicable where a parent allows a child to drive and an accident ensues. Parents will be held financially liable for any injuries or property damages that results.
If you are being sued for the acts of your child contact a personal injury lawyer. Attorney Rex B Bushman can help with all issues affecting parents and minors including child custody, family law, and visitation rights.