In the personal injury world, a parent is generally not liable for the actions of their child just by way of being the child’s parent.
However, there are four main ways where a parent could be held legally responsible for the tortious acts of their child:
- The parent entrusts the child with some object, which because of the child’s lack of age, judgment, or experience, may become a source of danger to others. Some examples include a parent giving the child, or providing the child with access to, a knife, gun, fireworks, or a vehicle.
- The child is acting as the parent’s agent or servant. This covers situations where the parent has asked the child to do something on their behalf, and the child ends up causing damage or injury while performing the act.
- The parent instructs the child to commit a wrongful act. For example, the parent tells the child to go harm someone or damage something.
- The parent fails to exercise control over the child, when the parent knows, or should know, that injury to another is possible. This usually applies when the child commits an act of violence and injures someone. In the case of Pardo v. Carhart, the defendant parents were sued by the plaintiff because their child injured the plaintiff in a fist fight. The evidence showed that offending child had not been involved in any prior fist fights, and there was nothing in the child’s history that would have put the parents on notice that their child had a propensity for violence. In that case, the Judge decided that the parents could not be liable for the child’s acts, because they were unaware that their child would engage in that kind of behavior.
In personal injury cases, there are many instances when one person can be held liable for the actions of another person, if certain criteria are met. It is critical to conceive of all the possible defendants when analyzing a personal injury case so damages can be recovered from everyone who played a role in causing the injury, and this includes the parent-child relationship.
If you have questions about a potential injury case, who can be held liable for your damages, and how our Tampa lawyers at Robert Sparks Attorneys can help, contact us for a FREE consultation.