Parent Liability: Selected State Laws

The parents will be liable for the intentional acts of children causing injury to others or property damage. There is a provision for automatic liability up to $10,000 but the liability can be extended to the full value of the damages.

If the parents were aware of the child’s potential for misconduct but did not take reasonable action to prevent such misconduct, the parents will be liable. Similarly the parents will be liable in the following instances – the child has ready access to a firearm, willful misconduct of the child, the parents allow the child to use their car or a parent signed the driver’s license application of the child.

Parents can sign certain liability waivers if their minor children engage in certain recreational activities or sports.

It is against the law for an individual to store or leave a loaded firearm in any manner that would make the firearm easily accessible to a minor without the consent of the parent or guardian and use the firearm.

If a minor is held to be delinquent, the parents/guardians can be ordered to take part in treatment or rehab programs for the minor and may be asked to incur cost of such programs and services rendered including the costs incurred for providing an attorney to defend the minor, foster or institutional care placement, treatment and counseling, cost of the juvenile proceeding, etc. Failure by the parent/guardian to pay the costs can result in a contempt of court charges. The parent/guardian will be liable for any bodily injury or property damage caused by the acts of the child. The liability is limited to $5000. However if the bodily injury or property damage is caused as a result of gang activity, the parent/guardian will be liable for the total damages.

All firearms must be properly locked and store so as to prevent it from being used by anyone other than the owner or someone who is legally authorized to use the firearm. Firearms dealers must display the following message at the purchase counter: “IT IS UNLAWFUL TO STORE OR KEEP A FIREARM, RIFLE, SHOTGUN OR MACHINE GUN IN ANY PLACE UNLESS THAT WEAPON IS EQUIPPED WITH A TAMPER-RESISTANT SAFETY DEVICE OR IS STORED OR KEPT IN A SECURELY LOCKED CONTAINER.” The font must be bold and at least one inch in height.

The parental liability statute limits the liability of the parents to $2000 but if the damage or injury was caused as a result of parental negligence, this limit does not apply.

Parents can be held liable for up to $5000 for any property damage caused by the willful, malicious or unlawful acts of the child.

All firearms must be properly locked and store so as to prevent a child from gaining access to the firearm. If the person knew that a child could access the firearm but did not do so, then it is a misdemeanor offense. Firearms dealers must display the following message at the purchase counter: “It is unlawful to store, transport, or abandon an unsecured firearm in a place where children are likely to be and can obtain access to the firearm.”

Leaving a loaded firearm in a manner that endangers the life or limb of a child under 15 years is a misdemeanor offense.

Under the Wisconsin Grandparents Liability Law grandparents must financially support any grandchildren born to the minor children.

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