Posted on April 14, 2020
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Adults are not the only ones who make mistakes that injure others. Children and minors can also be guilty of negligence, recklessness, maliciousness and the wanton disregard for the safety of others. If a minor caused your accident in Texas, you may be able to hold him or her directly responsible. You might also have grounds to bring a case against the minor’s parents, depending on the situation.
Can You File a Case Against a Minor?
Yes, you can file a case against a minor after an accident. Texas’ civil laws give you the right to bring a cause of action against any individual or entity that negligently, carelessly, recklessly or intentionally caused your accident. If a 16-year-old driver crashes into you while texting and driving, for example, you could file a case against the minor for your damages. Under Texas’ parental responsibility law, however, your case may technically go to the minor’s parents rather than the child himself or herself.In a car accident case specifically, you can file a claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance company. For a minor driver, this will most likely be his or her parents’ insurer. When a minor drives a car, the insurance of the vehicle’s owner should cover damages related to an at-fault auto accident. You will go about your claim as you normally would with the vehicle owner’s insurance provider.In some personal injury and property damage claims, you can file a lawsuit directly against the minor instead. This might be possible if the parents do not have insurance that covers the minor, for example. You and your lawyer can go to court and request a legal judgment determining how much the minor owes you. Upon the minor turning 18, he or she will have to pay you what he or she owes. The legal process against a minor, however, can be long and complicated.
Parental Responsibility Laws in Texas
You might be able to file a claim against the parents of the child who caused your accident in some cases. The State of Texas passed a law holding parents civilly liable for the acts of their minor children in some situations.Texas Family Code 41.001 states that a parent or someone else with the duty of control and discipline over the child will be liable for any property damages the child causes, in certain circumstances.
The child was negligent in his or her conduct. This will be a valid reason to hold a parent vicariously liable if the child’s negligence traces back to the negligent failure of the parent or legal guardian. For example, if the parent negligently failed to supervise a child while using fireworks, and the child negligently sets fire to your property, the parent could be liable for the negligence of the child.
The child was willful or malicious in his or her conduct. If the child is at least 10 years old but under 18, and your lawyer can prove his or her actions in destroying your property were willful or malicious, the parents will be vicariously liable. This may take proving the child’s knowing intent to destroy your property. Your lawyer will not need to prove the parent or guardian’s negligence if you base your case on this grounds.
If you pursue compensation through the willful or malicious intent route, the cap on the damages you could receive from the child’s parent or guardian is $25,000 per occurrence, plus reasonable attorney’s fees and court costs. Under the traditional principles of common law liability, a parent could still be vicariously liable for the actions of his or her child even if one of these two circumstances does not apply. If a parent knows of a child’s propensity to destroy property, for instance, but does nothing to reasonably prevent an altercation, the parent may be liable for resultant damages. Hire a Dallas personal injury attorney to help you understand liability and parental responsibility after an accident involving minors in Texas.