Are parents held liable for the damages or harm caused by their children?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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Although parents and guardians are liable for monetary damages for the intentional or negligent harm caused by their children, most states have limitations on the amount of money parents and guardians must pay through parental liability. In addition, a homeowner’s insurance policy may provide coverage for certain acts, depending on the circumstances. Call your insurer to discuss your specific policy and situation to determine coverage.

In general, parents and guardians are liable for injuries and damages caused by their minor child – that is, a child between the ages of 8 and 18. Many state courts consider parents and guardians to have parental liability under the legal theory of vicarious liability, which assigns responsibility to one person for another’s harmful act where there is a special relationship between the two people. Since parents (or guardians) and children have a special relationship and children are too young to be held financially responsible for their actions, it is the parents and guardians who must pay for the children’s harmful acts. Such acts include, but are not limited to, intentional or negligent destruction of property, personal injury or death, theft, vandalism, and auto accidents. The legal theory of negligent supervision and parental liability may also hold parents and guardians, as well as grandparents or any person who is supposed to be caring for a child, liable for injuries or damages caused by that child while he was under their supervision.


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