Drake, Hileman & Davis, PC

Minor Children and Accidents

November 9, 2020

Most U.S. states have some type of parental responsibility within their codes. These laws can be used to hold a parent or legal guardian financially responsible for certain actions of minor children.

Parents are not necessarily responsible for everything their minor children do, but they may be liable if their child, for example, damages someone else’s property on purpose, or harms someone in an intentional and malicious manner. In some states, parents may even be responsible for harm accidentally caused by their children.

If you are being legally blamed for the actions of your minor child, let a Bethlehem accident attorney at Drake, Hileman & Davis help.

About Minor Child Responsibility in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania’s parental responsibility law, known as “Liability For Tortious Acts of Children,” can be found at Pennsylvania Code Title 23 Chapter 55. Section 5501 defines a “tortious act” as a willful act resulting in injury. “Injury” includes personal injuries, theft, or property damage.

Although parents in Pennsylvania can only be liable for the tortious acts of their children if they have custody or control over the child, a parent who has deserted a child may still be responsible for the child’s tortious acts.

Criminal Tortious Acts

If a child is involved in a criminal proceeding arising from the child’s tortious act, the court first determines what it would take to make the damaged party “whole;” i.e., return them to the same position he or she would have been in had the act not occurred. The judge then orders the parents to make payment for that amount to the person injured. If the parents fail to comply with the court’s order, the injured person may file a civil lawsuit directly against the parents for the damages that are owed.

Civil Tortious Acts

If a court enters a judgment against a child in a civil action because of the child’s tortious act, and the child does not pay the judgment within 30 days, the injured person may petition the court for an order to show cause why the court should not enter judgment against the minor’s parent(s). Parents may file an answer to the petition. If all of this fails; e.g., the parties disagree about the facts, then the matter may proceed to trial.

Other Issues Regarding Torts Committed by or Against Minor Children

It’s important to understand that Pennsylvania law imposes limits on parents’ responsibility for the tortious acts of their minor children, commonly capped at $1,000 for any injuries suffered by any single person and $2,500 for all injuries suffered by more than one person.

Additionally, from the plaintiff’s viewpoint, if a child under the age of 18 is injured, Pennsylvania law delays the period of the statute of limitations, which is typically two years. The statute of limitations for a minor does not start until the child’s 18th birthday. Therefore, most children have until their 20th birthday to file a lawsuit for injuries caused by accidents.

Contact a Bethlehem Accident Attorney at Drake, Hileman & Davis for Help With Your Claim

If your minor child has injured another or has him or herself been injured, a Bethlehem accident attorney at Drake, Hileman & Davis can help. We understand the law and can help you with all aspects of your claim. We work on a contingency fee basis. Contact us for further information and to schedule your free consultation.