Parental liability is the term used to refer to a parent’s obligation to pay for damage done by negligent, intentional, or criminal acts of that parent’s child. In most states, parents are responsible for all malicious or willful property damage done by their children. Parental liability usually ends when the child reaches the age of majority and does not begin until the child reaches an age of between eight and ten. Laws vary from state to state regarding the monetary thresholds on damages collected, the age limit of the child, and the inclusion of personal injury in the tort claim. Hawaii enacted, more than a century before statehood, such legislation in 1846, and its law remains one of the most broadly applied in that it does not limit the financial bounds of recovery and imposes liability for both negligent and intentional torts by underage persons. Laws making parents criminally responsible for the delinquent acts of their children followed civil liability statutes. In 1903, Colorado became the first state to establish the crime of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Today, most states have laws relating to parental liability in various applications. Children’s offenses can be civil and/or criminal in nature. Civil cases are lawsuits for money damages. The government brings criminal cases for violations of criminal law. Many acts can trigger both civil and criminal legal repercussions.
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