Are Parents Legally Liable for their Child’s Actions?

In some cases a parent can be held legally liable for their child’s actions. Generally, in order for parents to be held liable for their child’s acts, the parent must have control, custody or supervision over the minor.

When is a parent responsible for personal injury caused by children?

Under the current status of Missouri injury law, parents have been held liable for personal injuries caused by their minor children in the following circumstances:

1. Where the traditional master and servant relationship exists and the child is acting within the scope of authority established by the parent. An example of this would be a child working for a parent.
2. Where a parent entrusts a child with an instrument that poses an unreasonable risk to others. An example would be an excessively high performance car.
3. Where a parent entrusts a child with a vehicle, though not an unreasonable risk to others itself, the vehicle is likely to be put to a dangerous use because of the known propensities of the child. An example would be permitting a child to drive a family car when the parent knows the child is a bad or reckless driver.
4. Where the parent directly participates in the child’s tortuous conduct by consent to the conduct or by ratifying the conduct later and accepting the benefits of such conduct. An example of this would be telling a child to go hit or trip someone as a practical joke.

Why does Missouri law hold parents liable for personal injuries caused by children?

While at first it may seem unfair to hold parents liable for torts committed by children, the goals of society are met by enforcing these rules. Every reasonable person would agree that society expects parents to control their children. Equally, society expects that innocent victims should not be financially burdened by having to pay for medical expenses and personal injuries caused to them though no fault of their own. Under Missouri personal injury law, parents are incentivized to keep others safe from their own child’s actions. In the end, society is benefited because we will have less people being hurt and less personal injury claims in Missouri.

If you have questions about torts committed by children or how a parent can be held liable for the negligence of their child, feel free to contact one of our Missouri personal injury lawyers for a free consultation.


February 20th, 2014 by Ryan E. Bradley

Ryan Bradley is a trial lawyer and owner of The Bradley Law Firm. He specializes in catastrophic personal injury ad wrongful death cases.

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St. Louis Lawyer Disclaimer: The legal information offered herein by The Bradley Law Firm, is not formal legal advice, nor is it the formation of an attorney client relationship. In order for our firm to be considered your attorney there must be a signed agreement between the client and the firm. Any results set forth herein are based solely upon the circumstances of that particular case and offer no promise or guarantee upon the outcome of any other case. Please contact a lawyer for a consultation. This site is not intended to solicit clients outside the State of Missouri or Illinois. The Bradley Law Firm may co-counsel or associate with other law firms around the country at its discretion from initial intake through litigation when it deems appropriate.

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