Parental Liability For Minors’ Conduct

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Teenage girl holding cell phone looking scaredBeing a parent is a full-time job that can sometimes be very stressful, especially if your child is prone to behavior that constantly results in damage to property or injuries to others.  For parents of minor children, the stress may be elevated by the discovery that they are being sued for the actions of their children.  While a parent may want to instill some tough love and have the child be responsible for the financial consequences of their actions alone, the law does not always let the parents off the hook.

Situations in Which Parents Can Be Liable

In South Carolina, as in many other states, parents are responsible for damage to property and injuries caused by their minor children in some instances.  Minor children are defined as children  under 18 years old.  This parental responsibility is limited, and does not completely absolve the minor of responsibility as he or she is still liable, but it can nevertheless be a strain on the parents.  South Carolina law allows recovery for damages in a civil lawsuit against a minor’s parents or guardians as long as the minor resides with the parents or guardian, and the actions of the minor were maliciously or wilfully performed.

The law limits the parental liability to $5,000.  However, this provision of the law does not apply if the minor is a ward of the state or otherwise in custody of an adult authorized by the state, such as a foster parent, at the time he or she causes the damage or personal injuries.  Although there is a $5,000 limit for the parent, there is no such limit for the minor and the injured party can be awarded a larger sum to be paid by the minor.

Paying Attention Can Prevent Liability

A parent or guardian who does something that may foreseeably lead to the minor causing damage and injuries can be held liable for higher damages in a lawsuit in some cases.  For example, under the family purpose doctrine, a parent who allows a minor to freely use the family car may be liable for more than the $5,000 limit if the minor is involved in a car accident, and causes major damage and injury.

Also specific to minors driving, a parent or guardian who signs a minor’s driver’s license application becomes liable if the minor drives negligently, unless the parent has adequate auto insurance to cover the damage.  Parents or guardians who supply minors with alcohol could also be held liable for any property damage or other injuries, if the minor is later involved in auto accident as a result of being intoxicated.

Contact a South Carolina Auto Accident Attorney

If you were injured in an auto accident caused by a person under the age of 18 years and you suffered serious injuries, you should not limit your avenues for recovering for your losses; contact an experienced Greenville auto accident attorney for a consultation.  Attorney Dan Pruitt is prepared to help ensure you recover the compensation to which you are entitled.

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