Liability of parents for conduct of their child

Seeking the advice and representation by an experienced family law attorney is important, especially when you might become liable for the conduct of your child.

In Texas, parents have liability for the conduct of their children and for damages they may cause. The section of law child liability is found in the Texas Family Code, although this is not a subject many people think about when it comes to family law. A good thing for parents to know is that there is a limit on the amount of damages, especially in the event your child throws a party in a hotel after prom or on spring break. In many cases your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance will cover claims for the wrongful acts of children, but there may be limits and complicating circumstances.

The Texas Family Code states regarding parent liability for conduct of a child:

“A parent or other person who has the duty of control and reasonable discipline of a child is liable for any property damage proximately caused by:

(1) the negligent conduct of the child if the conduct is reasonably attributable to the negligent failure of the parent or other person to exercise that duty; or

(2) the willful and malicious conduct of a child who is at least 10 years of age but under 18 years of age.

If your child acted negligently or engaged in willful and malicious conduct, you as the parent could responsible for a maximum amount of damages, per occurrence, limited to $25,000 for actual damages as well as additional court costs and attorney’s fees. In the event the damage occurs in a hotel, the “occurrence” means, “one incident on a single day in one hotel room. The term does not include incidents in separate rooms or incidents that occur on different days.

Negligent vs willful and malicious conduct

The key issue in cases involving children’s negligent conduct is whether the parent knew or should have known, and failed to prevent their child from doing something dangerous, where harm to another is likely to occur. These issues may be resolved through litigating the issues involved. Where willful and malicious conduct is involved, law enforcement may also have a part in the occurrence leading not only to monetary liability but also punishment in the juvenile justice system.

Seeking the advice and representation by an experienced family law attorney is important, especially when you might become liable for the conduct of your child.