Parental responsibility laws exist in every state. These laws cover the legal implications of damage or injury inflicted by a minor or child on a person, place, or thing. The laws apply to damaged places or items, as well as to persons who are injured. Of course, parents or legal guardians are held accountable – not the child (except in cases of juvenile delinquents over a certain age). It is imperative to understand the risks related to, as well as the reasons behind, parental responsibility laws.
New York General Obligations Law 3-112 outlines parental responsibility law. New York law states that parents or guardians are responsible for the actions of their children who are older than 10 years, but younger than 18 years. The government decided that at age 10, parents should be accountable for damages caused by their children. At age 18 the child in question is an adult and tried as such in a court of law.
The law applies to all biological and adoptive parents and guardians of children aged 10 to 18. However, it does not apply to foster children or their foster parents.
Almost any individual or business can pursue monetary recovery for damages caused by a minor. This includes individuals, shops, churches, and some schools or daycares. There is no stipulation on who can claim a child has caused damage worthy of going to court. However, not every claim has merit so not all cases succeed in recovering damages. For example, if the minor has a mental disability, the case may not result in recovery. In addition, if the parents cannot afford a settlement in the full amount, the case will likely not result in recovery.
Law 3-112 targets two specific types of damage inflicted by minors.
It is important to note, however, that parents of minors who damage property by accident (having no willful or malicious intent) are not held accountable under the law. In addition to these types of property damage, parental responsibility laws cover almost any type of willful damage or injury a child between age 10 and 18 can commit.
If the court rules that damages or personal injury settlements are greater than $500, a parent who does not have the finances can apply for a hardship exception. The court may grant a hardship if the parents can prove that they do not have the money to pay. However, the hardship only lessens the settlement. The fee is a minimum of $500. Also, the process of proving hardship is difficult and extensive.
Parental responsibility laws are in place to protect individuals and businesses, but often raise questions for parents of young children. Essentially, individuals only need to worry about these laws if they have personally incurred damage inflicted by a minor, or are parents of a minor who may willfully damage property or hurt another person. Whether or not you are a parent, it is reassuring to understand that the express purpose of these laws is to keep individuals – including children – safer every day.