Can you hold parent’s liable for the actions for their children?

Most parents do no really consider the possibility that their child could result in a civil lawsuit against them. But, it can happen. It can happen if a child hits you while she or he is drunk driving in their parent’s car. Depending upon the circumstances, that child’s drunken driving could result in the parent’s being held personally liable. Typically, children are responsible for their own actions however in a few narrow exceptions parents may be held civilly liable. This article will explore how that can occur.

The way you can hold parents liable for the actions of their child is through a legal theory known as “vicarious liability.” Vicarious liability basically means that the parent gave their child permission to use their car so the parent is responsible for their child’s actions. This liability only extends if the parent gave permission, so if the child that hit you stole the car you cannot hold the parents liable.

Depending on the law of the state in which the accident occurs, what you can recover from the parent may vary. If you were injured by a child in a car accident then you may want to speak to an attorney to discuss your options.

The other theory in which you could hold the parent’s liable is called “negligent supervision.” This basically means that either parent knew their child behaves chaotically and still allowed them to participate in an activity that was dangerous. For example if a mother knew her daughter drank and drove before and still allowed her to take the car out for an evening drive, the mother could be held liable if the daughter causes an accident.

If you were hit by a drunk driver that is a minor then you may want to sit down with an attorney. Navigating these vicarious liability and negligent supervision rules can be complicated. There are many pitfalls and areas with which you may mount a defense. A legal professional can help guide you through the process.

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T.J. Smith, Attorney at Law
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