Can you, as a parent, be held liable for the wrongdoings of your minor children? Like many legal issues, the answer to that question hinges on multiple factors. In Florida, a parent may be liable for the damage caused by their child in a motor vehicle accident. A parent is not liable merely due to the fact that they are the parent of the child and generally a party has no legal duty to prevent the misconduct or wrongdoing of another person. However, in a limited number of circumstances, a parent may incur liability for the conduct of their minor child:
(1) the parent entrusts the child with an instrumentality that, because of the child’s lack of age, judgment, or experience, may become a source of danger to others; (2) the child committing the tort is acting as the servant or agent of its parents; (3) the parent consents, directs, or sanctions the wrongdoing; or (4) the parent fails to exercise control over the minor child although the parent knows or with due care should know that injury to another is possible.
Under the first prong, a parent may be liable for the conduct of their minor child if the child committed the wrongdoing with a “dangerous instrumentality” that was entrusted to them by their parent. A dangerous instrumentality is an inherently hazardous tool that, if used improperly, can cause harm to others. Examples of dangerous instrumentalities are a gun, knife, automobile, airplane, golf cart, crane, and tractor.
Under the second prong, a parent may be liable for the conduct of their minor child where the child committing the tort is acting as the servant or agent of its parents. An agency relationship between parent and child can develop if the parent is employing the child. Whether an agency relationship existed between parent and child is a fact specific determination that is governed by general agency principles. The situation explained under the third prong is very similar to the situation posed under prong two and often times these prongs overlap. Under the third prong, a parent may be liable for the conduct of the minor child where the parent tells the child to commit a wrongful act or how to perform it.
Under the fourth prong, a parent may be liable for the conduct of their child if the parent fails to exercise control over the minor child although the parent knows or with due care should know that injury to another is possible. This requires that the parent have prior knowledge of the child engaging in a particular course of conduct which led to another party becoming injured.
So back to the first question – What if your kid stole and crashed your car? Can you as the parent be held liable for the conduct of your child? The answer depends on multiple factors and can vary on a case-by-case basis. However, in certain circumstances, yes, you can be held liable for the wrongdoings of your minor children.
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