Each state has its own law regarding civil liability of the parent for the negligent acts of their children. As a parent you can be held legally responsible for the negligent act of your child the same way an employer can be held liable for the harmful actions of his/ her employees. This legal concept is called the vicarious liability: you become liable despite not directly responsible for the injuries and damages. In other words, you act as a substitute for the consequences of your child’s actions.

Financial Responsibility

In the Staten Island, you may be held responsible for damages caused by your child. However, once the child reaches the majority age, which is 18 years, you are no longer liable for the actions of your child. Besides, if there is a termination of parental rights over the child, you won’t be liable for an act of the child, because the legal parent-child relationship had ended. Sometimes minors can petition the court to be emancipated from the parents. The emancipation legally frees the child from your authority and frees you from the liability for the actions of your child.

Parental civil liability laws may cover acts such as, but not limited:

  • Destruction or defacement of national and state flags, public monuments, commentary headstones or historical markers
  • Vandalism to school or government property
  • Property destroyed in hate crimes based on religion or race
  • Car accident or gun misuse

Normally, the personal injuries and damages linked to any of these acts may also be included in parental civil liability laws.

The Scope of Parental Liability

As a parent, you will be liable for the negligent act of your child if you knew or had reason to know that it is necessary to control the child, and failed to take reasonable action. This legal concept is called negligent supervision. This liability extends to guardians, grandparents and others with the custody and control of the child. The reasoning behind such laws is that you have a legal duty to take reasonable steps to supervise your child. And if you fail to fulfill that obligation and the child ends up destroying a property or causing harm to another person, you are legally liable.

To determine the scope of parental liability to the actions of your child, the court relies on the common law and the reasonable and foreseeable rule. The reasonable rule means that you could or should have known that your child had a tendency to act in a dangerous manner or other parents in the same position would have known the danger. Foreseeable means that you should or could have been able to foresee that your child was capable of causing harm or other parents in your position would have seen the possibility for the damages/injuries.

The Doctrine of Family Car

The doctrine holds the owner of the family car legally responsible for any injury or damage caused by a family member when driving. It applies if the owner knew of it and consented to the use of the car by a family member. However, even if the owner doesn’t have a minor listed on an auto insurance policy, under the doctrine, he/she still remains liable. The owner could be held liable for actionable negligence for failing to supervise the child in prudent or a way a normal person would.

Hire an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney

If your minor is involved in any negligent or intentional acts, you should consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Staten Island to help you determine the types of liability you might face as a parent.