Did you know that an act by your child could leave you liable for up to $10,000? Scary, right? Before you decide to lock up little Steven until he turns eighteen, a small, parental responsibility discussion may be in order so you will have a better idea if and how you might become liable for your child’s actions.
Parental Responsibility Law for Willful Acts of a Minor
The relevant statute is NRS 41.470, which states:
- Except as otherwise provided in NRS 424.085 , any act of willful misconduct of a minor which results in any injury or death to another person or injury to the private property of another or to public property is imputed to the parents or guardian having custody and control of the minor for all purposes of civil damages, and the parents or guardian having custody or control are jointly and severally liable with the minor for all damages resulting from the willful misconduct.
- The joint and several liability of one or both parents or guardian having custody or control of a minor under this section must not exceed $10,000 for any such act of willful misconduct of the minor.
- The liability imposed by this section is in addition to any other liability imposed by law.
What does all that legalese mean? The key terms are “willful misconduct.” In this context, your child expresses “willful misconduct” when he or she is aware, or should have been aware that the action in question would cause harm to another person or property. Luckily, this means that if your child makes a mistake in good faith that is not willful misconduct.
However, if the harm done by your child is purposeful, or if he or she should have known better, you will be held “jointly and severally liable”; this means you, as the parent, will likely have to cover the cost of the damages up to $10,000 (unless your child also happens to have independent wealth).
Harm Caused by Firearm Use
NRS 41.472 controls for harms done by a minor with a firearm. It states that the parent, guardian, or any adult legally responsible for the minor will be held liable for the harm if he or she:
- Know[s] the minor has been adjudicated delinquent or been convicted of a crime, or
- Know[s] the minor has a propensity toward violence, or
- Know[s], or ha[s] reason to know, the minor intends to use the firearm for unlawful purposes and
- Allow[s] the minor to use or possess the firearm.
Similar to the willful acts statute, the parent, guardian, or legally responsible adult will be jointly and severally liable for the harm caused. However, NRS 41.472 does not cap the potential damages at $10,000; the adult held responsible will then have to pay for any damages (medical and all other costs).
Harm Caused by Driving
NRS 483.300 states that if a teenager under eighteen-years-old wants a driver’s license or permit, he or she must have the application signed by a parent or guardian. If, while driving, the teenager is then negligent or demonstrates willful misconduct, then the adult who signed the application will be held jointly and severally liable for the harm caused. Note that this is a lower standard than the “willful acts” of NRS 41.470. If there is one conclusion to be drawn from this parental responsibility discussion, it is that little Steven should not be permitted to get behind the wheel before he is mature enough to do so.