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Are Parents Responsible For Their Children’s Negligent Acts?

GENERALLY SPEAKING, PARENTS ARE NOT AUTOMATICALLY LIABLE FOR THEIR CHILDREN’S NEGLIGENCE.

While parents may be held liable for their children’s acts in some situations, California law does not impose a general liability on parents for the acts of their minor children. This means that parents may not always be legally responsible for the negligent acts their children commit. Parents are not always necessarily legally responsible for their children’s affirmatively wrongful acts, either.

Where parents have no knowledge of their children’s harmful or violent tendencies, are not aware that their children pose a risk, and could not (or should not) reasonably have known their children created a risk to others, the law often does not hold parents responsible for damage or injuries their children cause.

PARENTS HAVE A DUTY TO EXERCISE DUE CARE WITH REGARD TO THEIR CHILDREN

Parents may be held legally liable for their children’s negligent acts (and in some circumstances, for children’s intentional acts as well) where the parent(s) failed to exercise reasonable care. Specifically, parents have legal duties:

1. To exercise reasonable care in supervising their minor children; and

2. To exercise reasonable care in warning others if children have dangerous or violent propensities. (At least, if the parent knows or should have known about the child’s tendencies or behavior.)

Parents cannot avoid liability by ignoring their children’s behavior or by refusing to acknowledge that a child has a problem or may engage in harmful acts. Parents have an affirmative duty to supervise and care for their minor children, which generally includes an obligation to be aware of the child’s personality, developmental level, and mental or physical issues that might lead to harmful or violent behavior. Where parents know–or should know–that a child may be harmful or dangerous, the parents have a duty to warn other people who might suffer injury or harm as a result of the child’s actions. In some cases, the parents’ duty may go beyond mere warning, and may include an obligation to take affirmative steps to reduce or prevent the risk of their child harming other people or property.

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Disclaimer: THIS ARTICLE IS FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY, AND DOES NOT CONSTITUTE LEGAL ADVICE OR CREATE AN ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE AUTHOR OR ROSS LAW AND ANY PERSON. Your rights and experiences may vary. Never use an online article (including this one) to evaluate your legal claims. Speak with an experienced lawyer promptly to obtain a personalized evaluation of your claims, possible damages, and options. You may lose or compromise your rights if you delay in consulting legal counsel. Most legal claims (and defenses) are complicated and fact-dependent. If you believe you have a claim against someone who injured you, a lawyer who represented you in a previous lawsuit, or any other type of legal claim, consult an experienced lawyer immediately for an evaluation of your personal rights and claims.

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