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Am I Civilly Liable for My Kids' Actions?

By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. | Last updated on

When kids hit their rebellious teenage years, parents often wonder if they can be sued for their children's actions. In many states, yes, parents are on the hook. Parental liability, however, is dependent on the statutes in your jurisdiction.

Depending on where you live, you may be liable for what your kids do and what kind of damage they inflict.

Many states have enacted statutes that impose both civil and criminal liability for parents.

Civil liability generally means that parents can be sued for damages.

What kind of civil liability parents may face depends on the state. Many jurisdictions have legislation on the books that make parents liable for actions including vandalism, defacement of public property, destruction of property in a hate crime, or for motor vehicle accidents. Parents may also be responsible for personal injuries.

Essentially, parents are usually liable for any malicious or willful property damage inflicted by their children. Some states, like Hawaii, make parents liable for even negligent acts committed by their children.

Liability may begin at various ages. It usually starts when the child is between 8 and 10 years old, and ends when they reach the legal age of majority in their jurisdiction.

Some states capped damages, limiting the amount parents may owe. Other states have uncapped amounts.

Why are parental liability laws even on the books? It's probably meant to partially curb kids from damaging property. The idea may very well be that if parents are liable for the acts of their children, they'll be more vigilant in supervising them.

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