Parental Liability in Juvenile Cases
As parents, we go out of our way to protect our children. If someone bullies them, we do what we can to help them heal, learn to defend themselves, and punish those at fault. When our child is the one who misbehaved, protection takes a different form. They need punishments for learning experiences, as long as they are within reason. However, when the other parent comes knocking at your door, be careful what you say. Words you say to defend your child may be used against you in a parental liability suit.
You are likely aware that being a parent comes with a significant amount of responsibility. Not only does your child need to be fed and sheltered, but also needs to obtain an education, maintain health, and attend regular dental visits. What you may not be immediately aware of is that your child also cannot become a disruptive member of society. Anything that your child does can have a direct impact on you and you may be held responsible. Children are not accountable for the same standards that adults are. However, they do have a level of behavior to which they still must adhere. If they are under 16 years of age, an unwritten standard of conduct exists for the rational behavior of those of similar age, experience, and intelligence. This reasonable expectation is how their behavior is judged.
Are You Always Responsible?
The answer is, not always. A few things that must be true for allegations against a parent to hold up in court are:
- The child must be living with the parents at the time of willfully, wantonly, and maliciously causing severe personal injury or property damage,
- The parents must have been careless or negligent in controlling their minor child,
- The guardians must have negligently failed to restrain a child known to be violent, or
- The child must have taken a motor vehicle without permission from the owner resulting in damage to the vehicle equalling up to $5,000.
Gone are the days of children accidentally breaking a window playing baseball in the yard, then working all summer long mowing lawns to earn the money necessary to replace it. Although you may find an understanding citizen willing to let this punishment serve, many are quick to seek legal restitution. Therefore, it is in your best interest to quietly listen to their story and ask how they would like you to assist them. Do not offer excessive apologies; an “I am sorry your window is broken” will suffice. Going into a long apologetic speech may lead to an admission of guilt, additionally giving the other parent information about a destructive past which may be used against you. Your best bet is to contact a lawyer as soon as you are aware of an incident. If you are interested in discussing your situation with a Stamford, CT juvenile defense attorney, contact the Law Offices of Daniel P. Weiner at 203-348-5846 to take advantage of your complimentary initial consultation.