Parental Liability for the Actions of Minor Children
Children, and teenagers in particular, are known for their rash actions and poor decision making. While in most cases, this tendency only results in a headache for parents, in others it can have serious consequences, especially if someone else was injured as a result of a minor’s negligent or reckless actions. In most situations, the law does not allow an injured party to seek compensation from a minor for injuries caused by his or her negligence. In fact, parents are usually protected from liability as well. There is an exception, however, that applies when a child exhibited willful misconduct or was engaged in a dangerous activity when the accident occurred. Determining when a parent can be held liable for the mistakes of his or her child can be difficult, so if you were recently involved in an accident caused by a minor, it is critical to contact an experienced personal injury attorney who can help explain your legal options.
In Florida, anyone under the age of 18 years old who fills out an application for a driver’s license must have that application verified and signed by a parent or guardian. If the minor is later involved in an accident caused by his or her own negligence or willful misconduct, the person who signed the application can be held liable for resulting injuries. However, before a parent can be required to pay damages, the injured party must still be able to satisfy the elements of a negligence claim, which requires a showing that:
- The minor driver had a duty to use reasonable care;
- The minor breached this duty by failing to use reasonable care;
- The minor’s breach caused an accident; and
- The plaintiff suffered an injury as a result of the minor’s actions.
In order for this type of claim to succeed, the injured party is not required to prove that the defendant’s parents were negligent in their supervision of the minor.
Another exception to the general rule that parents cannot be held liable for the negligent conduct of their children is when a minor commits an act of vandalism, which includes the willful destruction or theft of someone else’s property. The following individuals and entities can pursue damages if either their personal or real property was willfully destroyed or stolen:
- Municipal corporations;
- School districts;
- Departments of Florida;
- Any person;
- Associations; or
- Religious organizations.
However, in these cases, a parent can only be held liable for the actions of his or her child if the minor still lives at home.
Call Today to Speak With an Experienced Florida Personal Injury Attorney
Minors are not generally renowned for their good judgment. In some cases, this poor decision making can have serious consequences for others. Those who are injured by a minor in a car accident or who suffered property damage as a result of a minor’s vandalism may be able to collect damages for their losses, so if you were recently involved in an accident caused by a minor’s negligence, please contact Boone & Davis at 954-566-9919 to speak with a dedicated Fort Lauderdale personal injury attorney about your case.