Personal Injury Lawyers
Attorney Van O'Steen

Parents Are Liable for Kids' Actions, Including Injury to Others

Van O'Steen

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I often have been asked if parents can be held liable under Arizona law for injuries or damages caused by their children.  In most cases, they can.

Suppose a grade school child in your daughter’s class hits her with a ruler, cutting her cheek and leaving a permanent scar.  Suppose a 16-year-old boy who lives down the street breaks into your house and steals your television set and manages to pawn it before he is caught.

Do the parents of these children have to compensate you for the damage and injury their children caused?

In Arizona, the answer is a qualified yes. But, the law puts a $10,000 ceiling on the parents’ responsibility.  It is common knowledge that children occasionally injure others as a result of their malicious acts.  Their parents are legally responsible for those acts, whether or not they could have anticipated or prevented the misconduct.

In the past, for a party to recover from the parents for a minor child’s malicious acts, it was necessary to prove that the parents knew their child was inclined to that sort of behavior.  If that could not be established, the parents were not responsible for the child’s actions.  Arizona no longer requires the victim to meet that burden of proof.

The law now simply provides that parents be held liable for the malicious acts of their children (up to a $10,000 limit) even if they had no idea their child was capable of such behavior.  Although that may seem harsh in some cases, it reflects a decision made by our society that, rather than have an innocent victim suffer the expense of a child’s malicious act, it should be his or her parents who do so.

The limitation of financial responsibility does not prevent a victim from pursuing other legal avenues in an attempt to impose greater financial liability on the parents.  This often occurs in personal injury matters.