Are Parents Liable for What Their Kids Do?

ELI5: Negligence

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You’ve likely heard of defendants being ordered to pay plaintiffs millions of dollars in personal injury claims. However, have you ever heard of a judge ordering a child to pay millions of dollars in a personal injury claim? Likely not—at least, not in the United States. In fact, you may be wondering who pays in a personal injury claim when the person who caused the injury was negligent and that person is a child. Although parents are responsible for their children, are they also responsible for what their children do? After all, how can a parent be held responsible for the actions of their child?


Nearly every personal injury claim starts when a person is injured. Once they contact a personal injury attorney, and the person and attorney agree to work together, the attorney investigates who may be liable for the injury. In a personal injury lawsuit, there can be multiple defendants, or people who may be liable. But not all of the people listed in the lawsuit will necessarily be found liable when the case is over. As the investigation continues, some names may be dropped from the lawsuit. The personal injury attorney will negotiate with the defendant—in most cases, the defendant’s insurance company—in order to get a fair settlement for the plaintiff. If the attorney and the defendants cannot come to an agreement, the case will go to trial in court and a judge or jury will decide how much, if anything, the defendant will pay.


Though children can be held responsible for their actions, they aren’t able to be sued. So, when a child commits a criminal offense, we generally don’t hold the child’s parents responsible for the crime. But there’s a difference between a criminal trial and a civil trial. Children can be found guilty of committing crimes and, depending on the circumstances, children can be tried as an adult, and receive adult punishments. Personal injury claims are civil matters where the courts often decide whether or not the defendant will pay the plaintiff a certain amount of money. The problem here is that children don’t legally own anything. Therefore, you cannot sue children for financial compensation since they don’t have a way to compensate you. So, while children can be held criminally responsible, they cannot be held liable and ordered to pay damages in a civil case.


Depending on the circumstances, you may be able to personally sue the parents of the child. However, this will likely only result in compensation if the parents have enough assets to compensate you for your injuries. For the most part, courts don’t order parents to liquidate essential assets, such as their only home, in order to pay a judgment on behalf of their child. The most likely source of compensation would be a parent’s insurance policy—if they have a policy which would cover the incident. This is because most people don’t have enough assets to be personally sued. If a parent has no assets or no insurance, it may be very difficult to receive compensation.

Homeowner’s Insurance 

Under premises liability, homeowners are responsible for ensuring that their property is safe for guests and visitors. If a property is unsafe, the owner is responsible for either removing the hazards, or taking reasonable precautions to ensure no one is hurt due to the hazards. Depending on the circumstances, a parent’s homeowner’s policy or renter’s insurance may cover an injury their child causes, provided that the injury occurs on the parent’s property. Under the right circumstances, a plaintiff can file a lawsuit against the parents, on behalf of their child, and the homeowner’s insurance company would pay any judgment that’s ordered.


This is probably the most common scenario of parents being sued on their child’s behalf. If your sixteen year old causes a car crash, who’s going to pay for the other party’s injuries?

Depending on your circumstances, your insurance may pay for any judgment entered against you on your child’s behalf, up to the policy limit. This is a lot like the homeowner’s insurance example. However, homeowner’s insurance only covers incidents that happen on the homeowner’s insured property. So, if there’s a car crash, the car insurance may have to pay. It’s more likely that the insurance company will be willing to pay if the child is on the insurance policy. If not, it could be more difficult to get the compensation you deserve.


If you’ve been injured by someone else’s unruly children, don’t wait to get the compensation you deserve. At Moxie Law Group, we make getting compensation a process that everyone can afford. Simply call Moxie Law Group for a free consultation. If it’s in your best interest to file a personal injury claim, we work on contingency. So you don’t pay us anything until you get compensated. If you lose at trial, you don’t owe us anything. If you’re ready to get the legal advice you deserve, contact Moxie Law Group today.

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