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Are Parents Liable For Accidents Caused By Their Children?


In general, the younger the child, the more excuses will be made for their actions, even if they might cause harm to another person. However, most states in the U.S. do have an age by which a child is expected to know right from wrong, and thus be held responsible for any potentially dangerous acts. Most often, this becomes an issue for teenagers, particularly those who are able to get their learners’ permit or graduated driver’s license before they turn 18. If your child causes an accident in Florida, be aware that you as their parent may be held vicariously liable for any injuries or damages they cause.

Parents Must Guide Their Children

It may seem unjust to hold parents responsible for the bad acts of their children – particularly if their children are nearing the age of majority. But in western society, parents have the responsibility to guide and educate their children until they become adults. Those under the age of majority, particularly very young children, often do not have the cognitive ability to truly comprehend the ramifications of their actions. If a child or a teenager causes harm to someone else, the implication is that their parents have failed to impress the duty to exercise care upon that child.

This applies in particular to accidents caused by minor children driving. Florida law allows a person who has reached the age of 15 to apply for their learners’ permit, but specifically states that they must also submit a signed form from a parent or guardian explicitly agreeing to assume any responsibility for injuries or damages caused by their children. In addition, Florida common law backs up the statute, generally arguing that parents are responsible for their non-adult children. There is no common-law limit to the amounts parents may be forced to pay if held responsible.

Society Comes First

If your child has been the cause of an automobile accident, be aware that while your child may be the registered owner of the car, you will still generally be held liable if your child is deemed at fault. Normally, a driver who causes an accident is liable for all the damages they inflict; however, parent/child relationships are seen as unique because of the stakes involved. Also, even if they are approaching the age of majority, children and teenagers do not always have the money or the general ability to pay for damages.

It is important to be aware that in certain situations, you may even face criminal charges for what your child has done, particularly if your child has committed an offense as well. For example, if your child causes an accident while driving under the influence of alcohol, and there is evidence that they obtained the alcohol from you, you might not only be held civilly liable, but you might also face criminal charges for supplying alcohol to a minor, or for negligent supervision of a minor. Parents have the right to parent their children as they see fit, but society also has the general right to safety and security.

Contact A Tampa Personal Injury Attorney

Minor children can legally obtain a learner’s permit at the age of 15, but this does not mean that they are legal adults who are fully in control of the vehicle. It is a parent’s responsibility to teach their children good habits. If you have questions or concerns about a possible liability case, though, a Tampa personal injury attorney from the Rinaldo Law Group may be able to answer them, and to help you determine how your family should proceed. Contact our offices today at (813) 831-9999 for a free consultation.



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