Having children is certainly a big change in any parent’s life. Clearly, new parents will have to undertake a lot more responsibilities. On thing that most parents don’t always consider is whether they can be held liable for their children’s negligent actions that harm other people.
From a parent’s perspective, he or she may believe that a child could be too young to be responsible for these kinds of mistakes. On the other hand, people that are injured from an unintentional or intentional child’s act will want to be compensated for any injuries that they may incur. The ultimate question becomes whether you, as a parent, can be held liable for your child’s actions that can harm other people.
Tort law is a field of law that includes intentional and unintentional acts that harm a person. Torts include intentional torts such as assault, battery, trespass, etc., as well as unintentional torts such as negligence. Negligence occurs when a person breaches a duty that he or she owes to another person and that person is injured (AKA damaged) by that breach.
Children have not had the time, growth, and brain development to understand what is right or wrong and whether their actions can risk harming someone else. While adults have a duty to behave as a reasonably prudent person to foreseeable victims, a child is held to a less burdensome standard of care. A child’s standard of care is that of a child of similar age, education, intelligence, and experience. If children fall below that standard and cause harm or damage to someone, intentional or not, they may be held liable.
Courts have typically held that children under seven cannot be negligent. From ages seven to fourteen, there is a rebuttable presumption that they cannot be negligent. As for children between the ages of fourteen and twenty-one, there is a rebuttable presumption that the child can be negligent.
Children commonly don’t have jobs or assets to pay for their lapse in judgment when they are liable, however. Parents can understandably worry whether they can be financially responsible for the harm that their children create and have to pay out of their own pockets. Usually, a parent will be financially responsible for the acts of their children that harm others, but some states have limited damage amounts. Regardless, being a parent means you obtain parental liability for your child’s actions.
Although children can personally be negligent, parents can also be held liable for negligent supervision of a child. As a parent, you have legal responsibility for your child, so you have an additional duty to supervise him or her to make sure they don’t harm another person. Therefore, even when your child is negligent, you could also be liable for negligently supervising your child. This of course, varies from the state you live in but this additional responsibility can often be asserted in personal injury cases.
To avoid being required to pay for your children’s mistakes, you should always supervise them as well as you can. Children can be difficult to predict, but you have a duty to try to prevent foreseeable harms and dangers to other people. Failing to supervise them properly could lead to being held liable for negligent supervision in addition to having to pay for your child’s tort(s).