top of page

Parental Liability 

What is Parental Liability?

The child's actions result in injury, regardless of whether the parent knows that the child is dangerous, and three general circumstances can lead to liability: When the child engages in willful misconduct that results in injury; It can be a result of the child's driving (Vehicle Code 17707); A parent failing to prevent an injury despite being aware that the child demonstrates dangerous behaviors or possessing dangerous tendencies; or A child injuring someone with a firearm the parent or guardian let the child use.

Parents who permit their child to engage in dangerous behavior under California's child abuse laws or California's child endangerment laws may also be criminally prosecuted for actual or potential harm to their own children.

people-4050698_640 (1).jpg

Vicarious Parental Responsibility Law – Ca Civil Code 1714.1

Vicarious Parental Responsibility Law

Parental and guardian liability for a child's willful misconduct is governed by California Civil Code 1714.1. The child's conduct, however, must cause an injury to another person or damage to another person's property in order for parents to be liable under this section.

Willful Misconduct

Willful Misconduct

In general, California law holds people accountable for the natural and probable consequences of their actions, such as negligence, recklessness, or intentional wrongdoing. It is only when a statute establishes an additional and constitutional basis for indirect (vicarious) liability that Californians are liable for other people's actions.


An example is Civil Code 1714.1. Under certain circumstances, it makes parents indirectly liable for their children's willful acts. A child's "willful" behavior is not determined by whether or not he intends a particular result, but by whether he has the mental capacity to intend the action that led to the result.

Joint And Several Liability

Joint And Several Liability

A parent or guardian who has custody and control of a child is jointly and severally liable with that child for damages under Civil Code 1714.1. A victim can sue the child on behalf of the injured party, as well as the parents or guardians. or the parent(s), or both. Due to the fact that many children do not have money to pay for the harm they cause to others, this is an issue of fairness for another person.

Caps of Parental Damages

Caps On The Amount And Type Of Parental Damages

It is illegal in California to recover damages for pain and suffering or punitive damages if the child suffers an injury or death. Similarly, vicarious parental liability is also limited to $25,000 if a child paints over property or uses substances similar to paint. Every two years, the $25,000 limit is adjusted for cost-of-living increases. For a loss covered by California's vicarious parental liability law, the parent's insurance company (if applicable) is also liable for a payment of up to $10,000.

Direct Liability For Parental Negligence

Direct Liability For Parental Negligence

Under California law, parents and guardians are directly liable for injuries caused by their own negligence to their children. Plaintiffs seeking to establish direct liability for parental negligence must demonstrate that: The parent either observed the behavior that caused the injury or was aware that the child had habits or tendencies that created an unreasonably high risk of harm to others; The parents had the chance and ability to control the child's conduct; The parents failed to take reasonable measures to prevent the conduct or harm to the plaintiff; and As a result of those failures, the plaintiff was hurt.

Ca Civil Code 1714.3

Parental Liability For Minor’s Use Of A Firearm – Ca Civil Code 1714.3

Under California Civil Code 1714.3, if a firearm is discharged by a minor under the age of 18, a parent is vicariously liable for the injuries. A minor and his or her parents or guardians, whoever has custody and control over the minor, will both be jointly and severally liable with such minor provided the parent or guardian either gave the minor access to the firearm or left it in an accessible place.

Parental Liability For Firearm Injuries

Caps On Parental Liability For Firearm Injuries

California Civil Code 1714.3 caps parent damages for a minor's use of firearms at $30,000 for injury to or death of one person and $60,000 for injury to or death of all persons.

Defenses To Parental Liability

Defenses To Parental Liability

The parents of children who have been sued for injuries they have caused have several defenses at their disposal. There are a number of reasons why a parent might not have been aware that a child had dangerous tendencies (for example: the child had never been destructive or violent before). As a result of the parental divorce, the child resided with the other parent and was not under the control of both parents) defense to direct liability, not vicarious liability, which can be based on either physical or legal custody). The child’s actions did not cause the plaintiff’s harm. In the case of the child’s use of a firearm, the parents did not approve or authorize the child’s use of the gun.

bottom of page