When are Parents Responsible for the Harmful Acts of their Children?

With the rise of modern technology, we often hear unfortunate news stories about motorists being injured or killed by teenagers who are texting while driving.  This is certainly one of the most common ways that children injure others, and it raises the following question:   What are the circumstances in which a child’s parents are responsible for the conduct of that child?  It might surprise you to learn that in Georgia, such circumstances are actually quite limited.

The general rule in Georgia is that parents are not liable for the negligent or intentional acts of their minor children merely on the basis of the parent-child relationship.  While parental liability can arise from the negligent failure to supervise or control a child which causes injury to another person, the injured party must show that the parents should have anticipated that harm to another would result unless they controlled their child’s conduct.

For example, parental liability can arise when a parent allows a child to have unsupervised control of an inherently dangerous instrumentality.  This may involve the parent actually furnishing that dangerous instrumentality to the child.  Additionally, a parent can be liable if he or she fails to prevent access by the child to the dangerous instrumentality, if the parent knew of the child’s proclivity or propensity for the specific dangerous activity which resulted in the injury.

In some cases, parents may be liable even in the absence of any instrumentality, but the injured party must show that the parents were on notice that, absent their interference, injury was likely to result from the child’s conduct.

In a recent case in Georgia, the court held that parents could be liable when their child posted false and defamatory on the internet by creating a fake Facebook® account for one of his classmates.  However, in another case, the court found that parents were not liable when their teenage daughter allowed a friend to drive the family’s ATV, injuring another of her friends.  These cases illustrate that the specific facts of each case are important in determining when parents can be held responsible for the misconduct of their children.

At Andersen Tate & Carr, our attorneys thoroughly investigate each case to determine who can be held legally responsible for the injuries suffered by our clients.  If you or a loved one has been injured by the child of another, whether from texting and driving, negligent operation of a boat, illegal consumption of alcohol or drugs, or some other misconduct, call Don Swift and the Atlanta Personal Injury Attorneys at Andersen Tate & Carr, P.C. for a free consultation.