Did Your Child Cause Injury on Your Ex’s Watch? What You Should Know

Children make mistakes – it’s a part of learning, growing, and becoming an adult. Sometimes those mistakes can cause injuries to themselves or others. Again, all part of the process of growing up, but it is also something that can lead to legal consequences for parents.


Florida has parental responsibility laws that can make a legal guardian responsible not only for the injuries of their own child but also for the injuries of others. What if your ex was in charge when the incident in question happened?


Unfortunately, that may not matter where liability is concerned.


Here’s what you need to know about the laws surrounding parental responsibility and how they can influence a personal injury case.


Florida’s Parental Responsibility Laws


Almost every state in the nation has some sort of parental responsibility statute as a part of their laws. That includes Florida.


These laws make legal guardians or parents responsible for any injuries or damages their child causes to another person. In general, these laws extend to malicious or intentional actions but can extend to accidents, too.


The specific requirements in Florida for parental responsibility include circumstances where the parent can be held responsible for damages caused by their child such as:


Dangerous driving


When it comes to driving, the main area where a parent can be held responsible for their child is when accidents take place on the road. Parents must, under Florida law, endorse the application of the child for their driver’s license.


That means the parents assume the responsibility for property damage or injuries that can occur because of an accident.


Although parental responsibility laws apply under intentional or malicious conduct, parents may also be responsible for car accidents and any damages that result from them — including injury to their own child — due to negligence.




A parent can also be held legally responsible for damages a child causes through intentionally or willfully destroying property. Parents are financially responsible for remediation of the property but damages can be limited to actual damages to the property and not non-economic damages.




Just as with vandalism, Florida laws make parents responsible for damage when a child steals from a property. But they are not responsible for non-economic damages or emotional damages that stem from the theft of the minor.


As in many other states, Florida’s parental responsibility laws apply to a child under 18. The only exception is for children who have been emancipated from their parents. In that case, parents cannot be held responsible for their child’s actions in civil or criminal court.


Are There Other Responsibilities under Florida Law?


The laws in Florida surrounding parental responsibility may not always seem fair, even though the law is written to try to be as fair as possible. Sometimes parents, even if they’re not with the child at the time, are responsible for their actions.


The laws focus on specific actions minors may take but does not mean anyone injured as a result of actions taken by a child cannot take legal action against the parents for damages.


There are common law rules that hold parents responsible for any damages that can result from their child’s actions, even if the child is injured in an accident as well.


Florida’s Parental Responsibility Laws


That is why it’s important to take steps to prevent the conduct of your children that could result in you being on the hook for any damages. That means clear communication with anyone you may co-parent with, even if you’re no longer in a relationship, to save yourselves from being held responsible for the things your child has done.


About the Author:


Andrew Winston is a partner at the personal injury law firm of Winston Law. For over 20 years, he has successfully represented countless people in all kinds of personal injury cases, with a particular focus on child injury, legal malpractice, and premises liability. He has been recognized for excellence in the representation of injured clients by admission to the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and named one of America’s Top 100 High-Stakes Litigators. Mr. Winston is AV Preeminent Rated by the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, enjoys a 10.0 rating by AVVO as a Top Personal Injury Attorney, has been selected as a Florida “SuperLawyer” from 2011-2020 – an honor reserved for the top 5% of lawyers in the state – was voted to Florida Trend’s ”Legal Elite,” recognized by Expertise as one of the 20 Best Fort Lauderdale personal injury attorneys, named one of the Top 100 Lawyers in the Miami area for 2015-2017, and one of the Top 100 Lawyers in Florida for 2015-2017 and 2019.