Recently, a serious crash in the 6500 block of Padre Drive, in south San Antonio, claimed the life of a 15-year old girl and caused significant property damage to a home and yard. A Ford Fusion lost control after hitting a curb, crashing through a wooden fence, hitting a tree and bringing branches down on the home. The remarkable fact about this accident is that police identified the driver of the Fusion as a 14-year old girl, who is now facing charges of intoxication manslaughter. This episode raises questions about Texas’ parental liability statutes, as many people do not have any idea that they might be held liable for damage that their children cause.
Property Damage Only
Texas, like most other states, does have a parental liability statute which states that parents can be held liable for the conduct of their children. However, the important thing to keep in mind about Texas’ particular law is that it only applies to property damage. If your child causes property damage, you as a parent can be held liable for that damage if one of two conditions applies. The first is if your child between the ages of 10 and 18 can be shown to have acted willfully or maliciously. The second is if your child’s conduct can be “reasonably attributed” to your negligent parenting. The owners of the home whose fence and tree were damaged in the Padre Drive accident could plausibly sue the young driver’s parents under this statute over the damage to their home.
The language used in both conditions is important. The key words are “willfully or maliciously” – meaning that if your child accidentally causes property damage, you will not be held liable – and “reasonably attributed.” The concept of ‘reasonableness’ is a difficult one to establish in law because it is so subjective, but in general, if a reasonable person would attribute your child’s conduct to your failure to parent them properly, then it is a good sign that you may be held liable for the damage caused.
What About Personal Injury?
While it is true that the Texas parental liability laws explicitly do not cover personal injury damages, this does not mean that minors and/or their parents cannot be held accountable if you have been injured by a child’s conduct. The family of the deceased passenger in the Ford Fusion might not be able to sue the 14-year old driver’s parents under the parental liability statute, but nothing would stop them from bringing a standard wrongful death suit – spouses, children, and parents are eligible to sue for wrongful death.
The underlying rationale for suing under Texas’ wrongful death laws would be the same as those under the parental liability laws – if a duty to exercise reasonable care exists between plaintiff and defendant, and that duty of care is breached, the defendant will often be liable for that breach. In the Padre Drive accident, for example, one might be able to argue that letting a 14-year old drive a car is decidedly not “exercising reasonable care,” and if a court agrees, it might decide any wrongful death suit filed by the deceased victim’s parents in their favor.
Can a New Braunfels Parental Liability Lawyer Help You Today?
Our children are individuals in their own right, but sometimes, the law does hold us as parents accountable for what they do. If you have questions about parental negligence or liability, contacting a skilled New Braunfels personal injury attorney can be a great help to getting them answered. The Bettersworth Law Firm is ready and willing to try and assist you with your case. Call us today at 888-392-0039 to schedule a free consultation.