Can Parents be Held Responsible for Damages Caused by Their Minor Children?

Are Parents Responsible for Injuries Caused by Their Minor Children in Crestview, FL?

Most states have Parental Responsibility Laws of some kind. They hold parents and guardians of unemancipated children liable for any injuries or property damage they cause through deliberate actions or negligence. Some states hold parents and guardians responsible for vandalism, theft and personal injuries. The laws typically cover both civil and criminal conduct. Each state determines which actions parents will be held responsible for. In Florida, the Parental Responsibility Laws cover driving and vandalism. If you have been injured by a driver who is a minor, you should contact a Crestview personal injury lawyer.

There is some debate about whether it is fair to hold parents responsible for injuries caused by their children. However, the alternative would be to leave the victim with the financial burden of a child’s negligence or willful behavior. Imagine you are a pedestrian who is hit by a teenage driver who was texting and driving. You will have to pay immediate medical costs and you may have to get ongoing treatment. You may even have to miss time from work and lose some of your wages. If the child’s parents aren’t held responsible, you would have to manage all these losses on your own.

Vicarious Liability or How the Law Holds Parents Responsible for Injuries Caused by Their Children

As personal injury attorneys in Crestview will tell you, Parental Responsibility Laws only apply to parents and legal guardians of minor children. Minors are defined as people under the age of majority. This differs from state to state but in Florida, the age of majority is age 18. The law, therefore, only holds parents responsible for injuries caused by younger children.

The vicarious liability of parents is actually established quite early. Minor can’t apply for a driver’s license without their parents’ consent. In Florida, parents or guardians of minors have to sign and verify their child or ward’s application for a driver’s license. Florida Statutes section 322.09 also spell out that parents and guardians will be held responsible if their child injures someone or damages their property while driving a motor vehicle. This harm can come about through negligence (failure to act as would be reasonably expected) or through willful misconduct.

This means the adult and the minor will be held jointly responsible financially for all damage caused. This can range from the minor scratches and dents of a fender benders to distracted or drunk driving accidents which cause serious injuries to drivers, passengers or pedestrians.

Let’s go back the example of the distracted teenager who hit a pedestrian. The parent or guardian who signed the minor’s license application would be responsible for paying medical bills, lost income, physical therapy, and any other costs.

A Personal Injury Lawyer in Crestview on Exceptions to Driving and Vandalism Offenses

We noted in the beginning that Parental Responsibility Laws cover minors who cause injuries while driving. Based on a 1985 case, the Florida Supreme Court identified four additional instances in which the law holds parents responsible for injuries caused by their children. These are when:

  • The parent has given the child something that could cause danger to others based on the minor’s youth and lack of judgment or experience. For example, if the child was given access to a weapon and they took it to the playground and hurt someone, the parent can be held liable.
  • The child was acting on the parent’s behalf.
  • The parent directed the child to do wrong or consented to their wrongdoing.
  • The parent or guardian was aware that the child could cause injury but they failed to prevent their misconduct. For example, if the parent knows their child always texts and drives and the minor hits a pedestrian or another car, the adult could be held liable.

Contact a Crestview Personal Injury Lawyer Today!

 If you have been injured through the negligent or willful actions of a child, you should contact a personal injury attorney in Crestview as soon as possible. They can advise you on whether the minor’s parent or guardian should be held responsible under Florida’s vicarious liability laws. Even if you are not sure you have a case, consult with an attorney anyway. You don’t pay for the initial consultation so you have nothing to lose. If you do have a case, your Crestview personal injury lawyer will work hard to get you the compensation you deserve for medical bills, lost wages and more. Remember, you don’t pay until your case is won. Don’t delay. Make that call today!

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