Kids can get into all sorts of trouble when a responsible adult is not around. Even a child that has active and engaged parents can misbehave and cause havoc.
So, what happens if a child causes damage to someone’s property? It may not surprise you, but parents can be held responsible and have to pay for damages caused by their children.
When are parents liable?
Alabama’s Parental Responsibility Act holds parents legally liable for up to $1,000 in property damage caused by their child, plus legal fees and court costs. This state law applies to:
- Any relative, legal guardian, or adult who has care or control of the minor and with whom the child lives
Under the statute, parent liability ends when the child turns 18. It is important to note that this law does not apply to foster parents and children.
Actions Covered under Alabama’s Parental Responsibility Act
The law makes a parent or guardian responsible for willful, malicious, or intentional acts of the minor resulting in “injury to or destruction of” someone else’s property. The act covers real property, including homes or businesses, and personal property, including computers, smart devices, automobiles, etc.
Also, according to the law, carelessness or negligence is not enough to trigger liability. For instance, damages from a car accident caused by a minor would not result in parent liability. On the other hand, vandalism, like throwing rocks through windows, smashing mailboxes, or graffiti, would apply.
Can damages be granted beyond the $1,000 limit?
Yes. Property owners have the right to file a lawsuit against a minor’s parents for more than the $1,000 liability limit if the parents are guilty of negligence. If parents fail to take reasonable actions to prevent the child’s destructive tendencies, the parents may be liable for the entire cost of the property damage and repairs.
Even if a parent is held legally responsible for their child’s actions and the court orders them to pay the property owner, the payment might not cover the total cost of damages. The owner might then be able to receive additional coverage through the insurance company.
The attorneys at Timberlake & League have experience fighting to recover costs for damages incurred due to third-party negligence. If someone has damaged your property, please call us at (256) 536-0770. We can help.