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Are Parents Liable for an Injury Their Child Causes in Florida?

Fiol Law Group|Posted in Lawsuits on October 23, 2018

Children make mistakes – it’s a natural part of growing up, learning, and evolving into adulthood. What happens when a child’s actions lead to another persons’ injury? Can a parent be proximally responsible for the actions of their children? In many situations, the answer is yes. To understand the role of a parent in a child’s negligence and when legal guardians may be responsible for damages the child incurs, talk with one of our personal injury lawyers in Tampa. FL.

Parental Responsibility Laws

Nearly every state in the U.S. has a parental responsibility statute on the books, and Florida is no exception. Parental responsibility laws make parents or legal guardians responsible for damages or injuries that their child causes to another. Generally, these laws only extend to intentional or malicious actions actually on the part of the child, but, in some cases, they may extend to accidental conduct, as well.

Florida has specific requirements for parental responsibility. Specifically, the circumstances in which a parent might be responsible for the damages their child causes include:

  • Vandalism, as described in Florida Statutes Section 741.24
  • Driving, outlined in Florida Statutes Section 09

Like many other states, Florida parental responsibility laws apply to any child’s actions under the age of 18. A notable exception occurs when a minor seeks emancipation from his or her parent. In this case, the parents cannot be responsible for the emancipated child’s actions.

Vandalism and Parental Responsibility

Under Florida law section 741.24, a parent might be legally responsible for the damages a child causes when he or she willfully or intentionally destroys or engages in the theft of property. Under the statute, if a child lives with his or her parents, they will be financially responsible for the remediation of the property. However, the damages available are limited to actual damages. In other words, a plaintiff cannot seek emotional or non-economic damages stemming from a minor’s theft or vandalism of property.

Auto Accidents and Parental Responsibility

The other main area in which a parent might be responsible for a child’s actions are accidents on the road. Under Florida law, a parent or legal guardian must endorse a child’s application for his or her driver’s license. Florida laws require that a parent assume responsibility for any injuries or property damage that a child’s actions cause while driving. Though many parental responsibility laws apply only to malicious or intentional conduct, in the case of operating a motor vehicle, a parent may also be responsible for any damages caused by negligence. In other words, a parent or legal guardian may be responsible for any property damage or injuries caused by a minor’s actions.

Other Parental Responsibilities

Unfortunately, these laws don’t always take into account what is fair, and sometimes parents must pay for the actions of their children – even when they taught them to make better choices.

Florida’s parental responsibility laws focus on the specific actions of minors; however, this does not mean an injured party can’t hold parents responsible for other damaging conduct by their child. Common law rules exist that can hold parents responsible for any potential damages that a minor might cause. For example, if a child’s malicious or intentional conduct, such as bullying, harms another student, a parent might be financially on the hook for any damages that result.

Generally, when a parent knows a child might have the tendency to act in a malicious or intentional way, then he or she might be responsible for damages. Even if a child does not cause damages specifically outlined by Florida statutes, parents may find themselves responsible for damages. As such, parents must take steps to prevent any conduct that might injure or cause property damage to another person or party.

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