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Many people don’t realize that parents can be held legally – and financially – liable for the acts of their children while they are minors. In Illinois, this includes not just intentional damaging acts committed by the child (such as acts of vandalism), but also some accidents when there is an established pattern of negligence (although not true accidents or acts of carelessness). Specifically, a child’s legal guardian can be held responsible for any damage caused by their children until they turn 19 years old.
While it may seem unfair for parent to be forced to pay for the mistakes of their children, under the law, a legal guardian or parent is supposed to supervise a child, making him or her responsible in part for the child’s behavior. Since an innocent victim should not bear the financial burden of property damage or medical expenses that results from a child’s wrongdoing, they deserve compensation regardless of the age of the perpetrator. Children have little money and cannot always be held responsible under the law for their actions. That’s why personal responsibility laws exist in Illinois.
This law applies in many different situations. For example, if your child has committed some act of vandalism or purposefully damaged another person’s property, you can be required to pay for the damages. Similarly, parents can be sued for medical bills if a child intentionally hurts another person. Even shoplifting can trigger parental responsibilities to pay. Not only can you be forced to repay the amount stolen in Illinois, but also a fine between $100 and $1,000. All of these would be considered crimes and thus automatically can trigger civil liability for the parents. Some accidents similarly trigger parental liability. If you child habitually does a risky behavior that leads to accidental civil liability, parents can be held responsible for not curtailing the behavior. This often applies in car accidents where the teen has habitually been ticketed for risky driving behaviors.
Parental liability has its limits, but in Illinois, these limits are high. While the actual criminal liability of a parent is minimal for a child’s actions in most cases, the civil liability (and therefore financial responsibility) for parents can be serious. Under the Illinois Parental Responsibility Law, you are only liable for “actual damages” caused by the minor’s behavior. These are limited to easily quantified expenses, such as medical bills and repair costs. Non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering, don’t apply.
While this does limit the financial consequences to an extent, the cap on parental liability is high in the state. For actual damages caused by malicious or willful acts by a child, the cap is set at $20,000. For any “pattern or practice” of willful or malicious acts, the cap is increased to $30,000. This does not include taxes and attorney’s fees, which parents can also be required to pay. As you can see, avoiding serious financial consequences would require expert legal assistance from an experienced Illinois personal injury attorney.
If your child is involved in a civil case in any way, your liability as a parent can be complex. It helps to make sure that the full legal ramifications are explained to you for any legal decision. If you think your child may be involved in a civil case, call us at Staver Accident Injury Lawyers, P.C. today at for a free consultation on your specific case.