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TX injury lawyerRecently, 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.

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Posted on in Car Wrecks

comparative negligence, fifty-one percent rule, New Braunfels personal injury attorneyLiability in a car crash is not always clear cut. For example, a freeway crash might occur on a rural road when the defendant crosses the centerline and the plaintiff is speeding. Or, two delivery trucks may collide when the defendant stops in the middle of traffic and the plaintiff makes an unsafe lane change. In situations like these, Texas law empowers the jurors to become mathematicians, in addition to factfinders. The Lone Star State is a modified comparative fault state, with a twist, in terms of contributory negligence. Plaintiffs may recover a portion of their damages depending on their percentage of fault.

How It Plays Out

In the first example above, assume that the jury determines damages to be $10,000 and the plaintiff to be 40 percent at fault, because the vehicle was traveling too fast to see the defendant and respond to a somewhat predictable emergency situation; on rural roads, it is not unheard of for cars to travel on the left side of the road, for one reason or another. So, the plaintiff would recover $6,000 (60 percent of $10,000).

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