Connecticut Parental Liability for Actions of Minor Children
Many parents are not aware that until their children become adults, they remain responsible for their children’s actions. This can often come as an unwelcome surprise to parents who are surprised out of the blue by police at their door or by bills they did not expect. If you have been advised you may be liable due to your children’s actions, you need to consult an attorney who understands these cases so you can ensure both you and your child’s rights are protected.
Property Damage and Injury
The relevant Connecticut statute is fairly straightforward about the types of offenses for which a parent can incur liability. The key phrase is that a parent is liable when their child “willfully or maliciously” causes damage to any property or injury to any person. It is important to keep in mind that ‘intentional’ has to mean ‘without just cause,’ rather than simply someone choosing to voluntarily act. For example, if a child chooses to act in a way that is almost guaranteed to injure someone, it does not necessarily matter if they had no intention to injure anyone - they still acted in that way.
One specific offense for which parents are often held liable is auto theft by a minor child, especially if they cause damage to the vehicle. In auto theft cases, both parents and minors are often held jointly liable, to ensure that any financial damages are dealt with while the minor child is appropriately handled by the legal system. This is very often the ethos in these types of cases - looking out for the rights of juvenile defendants who may need guidance more than punishment, while still ensuring that injured parties are made whole.
Common-Law Still May Apply
While Connecticut’s parental liability statute does have a monetary limit on just how much in damages can be assessed against a parent - $5,000, generally - it is important to keep in mind that not every juvenile offense is dealt with under Connecticut’s statute. The common law may still attach liability to parents when it can be shown that they failed to exercise reasonable care when it comes to their child and their child’s known propensities. In other words, if a parent knows that their child may be prone to being reckless, negligent, malicious, or otherwise act dangerously, but they allow them to do reckless or dangerous things, they may be liable.
Every parent has a duty to exercise reasonable care toward their children, but sometimes it can be very difficult to know when a duty exists toward others. Obviously, a parent cannot watch their child every minute, especially if the child is a teenager, but parents do have the obligation to at least try to limit behavior that can cause harm to others, especially if the child cannot or will not do it themselves. Failing to do so can lead to liability, at least in Connecticut.
Can a Fairfield County Juvenile Justice Lawyer Help You?
Our children need our help, and sometimes, that help needs to be more hands-on than not. Your children’s mistakes or negative choices can lead to financial liability and more serious consequences for them if the matter is not handled. Skilled Stamford criminal defense attorney Daniel P. Weiner at the Law Offices of Daniel P. Weiner has handled countless matters involving minors’ poor choices and parents’ liability and will work hard toward an outcome that ensures your child’s rights are protected. Contact our offices today at 203-348-5846 for a free consultation.