The holiday season poses special problems for parents whose children sometimes act inappropriately. Too many parties and too much celebrating occasionally can lead to some destructive behavior.
In Arizona, parents and legal guardians who have custody or control of minors are legally responsible for their malicious acts, including theft and shoplifting. Those under age 18 are minors.
In most cases, this liability is limited to $10,000 for each incident. Under some circumstances, the parents’ liability may exceed this amount. However, the maximum amount that may be automatically imposed is $10,000.
A child who is especially destructive—one with a history of malicious behavior—may create greater financial burdens for his or her parents or guardians. In these cases, it may be possible to hold the parents liable for the full amount of the injuries and other damages caused by the child. To accomplish this, however, the victim must show that the parents were somehow at fault.
Parental fault may exist if the parents knew about the child’s destructive tendencies and failed to take responsible measures to control the child’s actions or prevent injury and damage.
When a minor causes damage or injury while driving an automobile, parents can be liable although the child’s conduct was simply careless, rather than intentional or malicious.
The extent of insurance coverage available to parents for these car accident claims varies.
Most auto and homeowner’s policies do not cover claims that arise from malicious conduct, regardless of the amount. Coverage generally is available, however, where a claim is based on the parents’ inadequate supervision of their children.
Insurance policies typically exclude coverage for intentional acts as they provide protection for careless ones, such as failing to supervise children properly.
These matters of liability and insurance coverage can be complicated. My advice, however, is simple.
Do everything you reasonably can to control your children, and buy adequate auto and homeowner’s liability insurance to protect you if your best efforts fail, and they cause injury to others or damage their property.
Having done everything possible, under limited circumstances, you may still find yourself out-of-pocket for your child’s malicious conduct.
But no one said being a parent is easy.