In our last blog post about car accidents and personal injury law in Missouri, we looked at how Missouri handles minors who negligently hurt you or damage your property, or who negligently contributed to their own injuries.
But what happens when a minor deliberately hurts you or destroys your property by, for example, driving a car into your vehicle?
Missouri’s Parental Responsibility Law
Like most other states, Missouri has a parental responsibility law that holds parents accountable and legally liable for their child’s deliberate acts. Unfortunately, the law also places significant limitations on the extent of that liability, making it difficult for victims to get the compensation they need and deserve.
The law, Missouri Statute 537.045, applies to parents or guardians, but not foster parents, of unemancipated minors under the age of 18. Minors aged 16 or 17 can be emancipated through a variety of circumstances, such as by getting married or by living apart from their parents and becoming financially self-reliant.
When an unemancipated minor purposely damages your property or hurts you, you can file a lawsuit against them and their parents.
A Portion of the Money is Paid By the Parents
If you reach a settlement or the personal injury case goes to trial and the verdict is in your favor, Missouri’s parental responsibility law lets you recover up to $2,000 of the judgment from the minor’s parents. You can still enforce the remainder of the judgment on the minor, though they are almost guaranteed to be judgment proof and unable to pay it, at least not for many years.
Unfortunately, this means that you are generally going to struggle to recover the compensation that you need if the injuries or the damage that the minor caused are anything worse than trivial. The law has not been amended since 1990 and the amount that you can recover from the child’s parents or guardian is not adjusted for inflation.
Minors or Their Parents Can Work Off the Judgment
The parental responsibility statute does, however, provide an alternative to financial compensation: If all of the parties agree to it and the judge orders it, the minor and his or her parents or guardians can work for the victim in lieu of making financial payments for the property damage or injuries.
Personal Injury Lawyers at the Smith Law Office Serve Western Missouri
Missouri’s parental responsibility law aims to resolve a tricky situation. On the one hand, you were hurt or suffered property damage and deserve to be compensated for it. On the other hand, minors who intentionally cause harm are rarely able to pay for the damages they have caused, and often commit their misdeed against their parents’ wishes.
If you have suffered at the hands of a minor’s deliberate actions, the personal injury lawyers at the Smith Law Office can help you recover compensation through the state’s parental responsibility law. Contact them online or call their law office at (816) 875-9373.