When a Texas minor child engages in negligent or reckless behavior resulting in personal injury or property damage, the child’s parents may be responsible. The Texas Family Code, section 41 (the code), details parental responsibility in instances where a child causes property damage. Under the code, the parent or guardian of a Texas minor face liability if their child causes property damage to another in two instances. First, if the child’s negligent behavior was because of the negligence of the parent. This part of the code applies regardless of the child’s age, as long as they are under 18 years old. Second, if the child is between 10 and 18 years-old and willfully and maliciously caused the damage. To apply this section of the statute, the plaintiff needs to establish that the child had a purpose or intent to cause the accident. There are limits on the damages a Texas plaintiff can receive in these situations. A Texas plaintiff can receive actual damages up to $25,000 per occurrence, plus attorney’s fees and court costs.
Parents can still be liable even if their situation does not fall squarely within the Texas statute. Under Texas common law, parents can still face liability for injuries that are a result of their child’s willful, malicious, or negligent behavior. Texas injury victims can file personal injury lawsuits against the parent of a child based on parental negligence. Parental negligence claims often occur in instances where a parent knows that their child is inclined to engage in careless or reckless behavior but fails to take steps to prevent the behavior.
There are various situations where a parent or guardian may face independent liability or vicarious liability based on their child’s behavior. For example, according to a recent news report, a Texas father faced criminal charges after he allowed his 12-year-old daughter to drive his car. In this case, the father let his daughter drive his vehicle even though she was underage, and there was a toddler in the backseat. The daughter accelerated too quickly and ran over a man and his dogs in their apartment complex. Tragically, the man and his dog died instantly. Initially, the father told police officials that he was driving the car, but video footage revealed that his daughter was the driver. She admitted that her father was teaching her how to drive. In addition to criminal charges, the father may face civil liability for the deaths as well.