Jim Adler | The Tough, Smart Lawyer
By Jim Adler November 8, 2016

On Halloween morning recently, a 12-year-old Austin boy drove a car which was in a crash. Could his parents be legally liable for damages after their underage child was in such a driving accident?

That depends on the circumstances, but most likely yes. Read on.

This crash occurred about 7:30 a.m. on Oct. 31, 2016 at the intersection of East Riverside Drive and South Pleasant Valley Road in Austin.

Initially, an Austin Police officer had spotted a vehicle weaving in traffic on Springdale Road’s 900 block. Suspecting the driver might be impaired, the officer attempted to pull over the vehicle, but the driver kept on going.

The officer then followed the vehicle onto East Seventh and then South Pleasant Valley Road, during which time it struck another vehicle but kept going. The pursued vehicle then struck a utility pole at Pleasant Valley’s intersection with East Riverside and stopped.

The underage driver was transported for treatment to Dell Children’s Medical Center and is expected to be fine.

He is also expected to be charged with driving while intoxicated, failure to stop and render aid and evading arrest.

Can the boy’s parents be held legally liable for damages caused by his actions? Are they subject to parental liability?

What is Parental Liability?

As for what is parental liability, that indicates parents’ obligation to pay for damages caused by negligent, intentional or criminal acts committed by their child. Under parental liability laws in various states, parents must pay the party harmed by their child’s actions to compensate them financially for their losses.

Each state has its own laws on parental liability for underage accidents causing injuries or damages. Such parental liability customarily ends when the child reaches the age of majority, which in Texas is 18 years old.

Texas Law for Parental Liability

Texas law for parental liability provides a limit of $25,000 of liability for actual property damages due to willful and malicious conduct by a child who is at least 10 years old but is under 18 years old (Texas Fam. Code Ann. § 41.002). On top of the $25,000, liability also includes additional expenses for court costs and reasonable attorneys’ fees.

However, Texas law also imposes unlimited parental liability for property damage caused by the negligent conduct of a minor if the conduct is reasonably attributable to the negligent failure of the parent to exercise a duty of control over the minor, regardless of his or her age (Texas Fam. Code Ann. § 41.001).

In fact, parents also may be held liable for their child’s actions after the age of 18.

For instance, in 2008 a 24-year-old man drove into the living room of an SMU student in his parents’ GMC Yukon. The woman filed a civil lawsuit not only against the driver but also his parents, asserting negligent entrustment of a motor vehicle.

She alleged that the parents knew or should have known that their son was incompetent, reckless of unfit to operate the vehicle when they let him drive it, given his history of serious drug and alcohol abuse problems.

Their son later was sentenced to prison.

Insurance Coverage for Children’s Acts

As for insurance, since renters and homeowners insurance includes property and liability coverage, any wrongful acts of children, and any negligent supervision claims, can be covered even if the act took place away from a policyholder’s home, as in an auto accident.

But parental liability in lawsuits remains. The bottom line is that parents have some responsibility for their child’s actions, including when an underage child is in a driving accident.

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Testimonials

Erick Becker
Erick Becker
01:20 06 May 17
I am a Patrol Deputy for the Sheriff Office and while working one night, a drunk driver crossed the center stripe on the highway and struck my patrol vehicle head on with his pick up truck. Needless to say we (the drunk driver and I) were both lucky to survive, as the accident occurred at highway speeds. Following my release from the hospital, I knew that I would need to have someone represent me. My employer was happy to represent me in regards to prosecuting the driver for criminal charges but, can do little in respect to the recovery of financial losses for medical bills, pain and discomfort, time lost from work etc... This is how my relationship with Jim Adler and Associates began. Yep, you probably guessed correctly when you think of what made me choose the "Texas Hammer" to represent me. Those half obnoxious, half way entertaining commercials and radio announcements most Texans have been seeing and hearing on the TV and radio for years instantly came to mind. Yes, I wanted to "hammer" this S.O.B. for trying to kill me but, more importantly I was worried about the costs associated with the life long injuries I had sustained as a result of this drunk driver's negligent behavior. I contacted Jim Adler and Associates and so began our relationship. I was immediately surprised by the prompt attention and the expression of genuine concern for my well being that I received from the employees of Jim Adler's office. Now as you can imagine, lawyers are not a breed that is held in very high regard by people in my profession but, my experiences with Jim Adler's office and his employees have forced me to amend my way of thinking, at least on the civil side of the house anyway. I have to chuckle when I say that because my experience as a client of Jim Adler's firm has been exceptionally pleasant. So before I venture down one of the stereotypical and infinite number of rabbit holes associated with the relationship between members of law enforcement and lawyers; I will do my best to stay focused on my experience with Jim Adler & Associates. Upon being informed that my case had been accepted by Jim Adler's office; I was contacted by Iris Sanchez who informed me that she was to be my case manager and any questions, comments and concerns could be directed to her. I was pleasantly surprised to receive regular calls from Iris assisting with my medical appointments and future follow up appointments. Iris had informed me that Jim Adler's son, Bill Adler would be handling my case and I was even more surprised to receive several calls from Bill to discuss my case. Now you might be thinking "what's the big deal" with the person who is representing you contacting you? In reality, you are correct in that it isn't a big deal but, what is noteworthy and what separates Jim Adler's Office from the multitude of other lawyers is the genuine expressions of concern and the desire Bill Adler conveyed to me to do their best to help me. I felt an immediate connection and instantly realized I had made the correct choice in contacting Jim Adler & Associates to handle my case. One thing I think lawyers and police officers can agree on is the proverbial wheels of justice turn very slowly. Months go by and our professional relationship is never neglected. Through the unwavering attention of Iris Sanchez and Bill Adler himself, I never felt "out of the loop" so to speak and always had a clear understanding of where my case was at in regards to the legal process. In conclusion, I know my brief description of my experiences with Bill Adler and, his assistant Iris Sanchez, cannot provide the credit they deserve. Together they have done an outstanding job representing their firm/employer. If you are seeking a great firm to represent your legal interests and, take comfort in establishing a professional relationship that feels more like a friendship than a casual business acquaintance, then I highly suggest Jim Adler & Associates.
Tierra Clark
Tierra Clark
18:52 19 May 17
My lawyer Bill Adler and case manager Iris Sanchez are amazing! They constantly call and check on you . They keep you up to date through the process. They care about you as a person and not just a client. The wreck was a life changing experience that I've never been through before. I'm just glad I had the right people like Bill Adler and Iris Sanchez to help me through it. Truly satisfied.Thanks and God bless y'all!
Lorenzo Preston
Lorenzo Preston
17:23 26 Jan 17
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Tori Barroga
Tori Barroga
14:17 11 May 17
I was dropped from a previous law firm regarding my case before I called Jim Adler. They immediately took up my case and worked hard on it - I was always up to date with each step they took and the benefits or consequences of each. In the end, I am highly satisfied with the outcome and would not have it any other way. It took some time but I truly appreciate and want to thank everybody who helped me on this journey and worked tirelessly on it.
Bernard Orozco
Bernard Orozco
17:16 23 Feb 17
I am very happy with Jim Adler & Associates. I did not know anyone who has ever used the Law Firm before. The staff is very friendly and treated me as if I were family. At times it got very stressful being without a job. They helped me when I was confused about the process. Mrs. Theresa Rodriguez stayed in contact with me constantly. Checking on me to see how I was doing and to let me know how things were going on there end. The Attorneys that handled my case know exactly what they are doing to take good care of me. Thank You so much Attorney's Mr.Michael Gomez and Mr.Trey Smith.
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