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Are Parents Responsible for Property Damage Caused By Their Children?

If a minor in Birmingham recently damaged your property, you may wonder who will be financially responsible for repairs. The child that caused the damages most likely does not have the funds to repay what it will cost to fix or replace your property. In property damage cases involving minor culprits in Alabama, the minor’s parents may be vicariously liable in certain circumstances. Find out who may have to pay for your property repairs in these unique situations.

Alabama’s Parental Responsibility Law

The laws regarding parents’ legal responsibilities for the actions of their children are different in each state. The Code of Alabama 6-5-380 outlines Alabama’s parental responsibility law. It says a parent will be vicariously liable for the actions of a minor if that minor is under 18 years old and living with the parent or guardian at the time of the incident. The parent or guardian must have legal custody of the minor. The only exception is for approved foster parents, who will not be liable for damages foster children cause in Alabama.

Parents in Alabama are responsible for the actions of children that cause injury or destruction to a property if those actions are willful, malicious or intentional. Alabama’s parental responsibility law, however, comes with a $1,000 cap. Even if your property damages exceed $1,000, the child’s parents will only be legally responsible to repay you a sum of $1,000, plus additional payments for any related court costs. You could be personally responsible for paying the remainder of what it will cost to repair or replace your damaged property.

Exceptions to the Rule

Note that Alabama’s parental responsibility law does not address the negligent or unintentional actions of children. If, therefore, a child negligently or accidentally damages your property, his or her parents may escape liability. Carelessness is not enough to trigger a parent’s financial responsibility for a child’s actions. The law applies to acts of vandalism or intentional wrongdoing, not negligence.

Another exception is if the parent was not in care or control of the minor at the time of the incident. If the minor had run away from home at the time, for example, the parent may not be responsible for damages. If the minor lived with another relative, such as grandparents, they may be the guardians responsible for the child’s actions. Finding out if a child’s parents could owe you money for property damage in Alabama may take counsel from a personal injury attorney.

A lawyer can review your case and let you know if Alabama’s parental responsibility law covers your unique situation. If so, a lawyer could help you file an official damage claim with the child’s parents’ insurance provider. Most at-fault parents have insurance policies that will help them pay for damages if the parents cannot pay out of pocket.

Seeking Damages Beyond the $1,000 Limit

Even if you hold a parent legally responsible for the actions of a child, the recovery you receive may not cover the full costs of your damages. You may be able to receive additional coverage through your insurance company. If you carry home or vehicle insurance, it may cover the remaining costs of property repairs. You would need comprehensive or collision coverage for this type of settlement, in most cases. You may also have grounds to file a separate damage claim against a third party.

Someone besides the child may have contributed to your property damage. For example, the owner of a parking lot could be liable if he or she negligently failed to keep it secure from vandals, resulting in the damages to your car. In this case, you may be able to bring a lawsuit against the third party for full damage recovery. Typical property damage claims in Alabama do not have compensation caps, meaning you could recover the full amount of what it will cost to repair or replace your damaged property.