A parent can sometimes be liable for the harm his or her minor child causes to others.
Here are some situations in which, in California, a parent is automatically liable:
- When the parent has signed the child’s driver’s license application, and the child’s driving hurts someone (but the parent’s liability is limited to $15,000 per person and $30,000 per incident);
- When the child drives the parent’s car with the parent’s permission, regardless of whether the parent has signed the license application (liability limited to $15,000 and $30,000 per incident);
- When the child hurts someone with a firearm supplied by a parent (liability limited to $30,000 per victim and $60,000 per incident); and
- When the child willfully injures someone (liability limited to $37,100).
In the situations listed above, the parent is liable even though he or she was acting responsibility. But if the parent was not acting responsibility, his or her liability for the harm the child causes will be unlimited. Thus, a parent will be liable for the full amount of the harm the child causes in the following situations:
- When the parent provides the child alcohol and the child harms someone as a result;
- When the parent entrusts a car, weapon, or other dangerous instrumentality to a child who the parent should have known was not experienced enough to use it safely; and
- When the parent fails to properly supervise or control a child who the parent knew, due to the child’s prior misconduct, could harm others.