State statutes that are also known as parental responsibility laws are set so parents or guardians may find themselves financially responsible for damages that underaged children cause (intentional acts, accidents).
If you have been a victim of a child’s reckless behavior (minor driver caused an accident, or damage to your property or injured you anyhow) it’s best to seek legal help.
Also, if you’re a parent of an underaged child who caused injury or damages to another person, contact a New Mexico criminal defense attorney.
New Mexico’s Parental Responsibility Laws
New Mexico’s Parental Responsibility Laws has two areas:
- a minor’s willful/malicious acts (covered by New Mexico Statutes section 32A-2-27)
- a minor’s driving (covered by New Mexico Statutes section 66-5-11)
The age of adulthood in New Mexico is set at 18. These statutes only refer to the custodial parents/guardians of children under the age of 18.
Parental Responsibility for Minor’s Willful/Malicious Acts in New Mexico
According to New Mexico Statutes section 32A-2-27, parents and guardians who have guardianship of a minor can be responsible if the child willfully or maliciously injures another person or damages property.
The financial liability of the parent or guardian is limited to $4,000, including court costs (and attorney fees in some states) acquired by the harmed person who brought the legal action.
The parents or guardian’s liability is limited to “actual damages”. This refers to quantifiable losses that resulted from the minor’s actions. This can be out-of-pocket losses such as medical bills, lost wages, and fees for replacing the damaged property.
The “actual damages” don’t include pain and suffering; the non-economic losses can be quite high, so not being included in the “actual damages” is an important distinction.
Keep in mind the following thing (regard to section 32A-2-7:
A court may order minors to pay for damages that resulted from their malicious or willful actions even if the minors are within the terms of the Delinquency Act (if the child has committed a crime).
Foster parents are excluded from liability under the statute.
Responsibility for a Minor’s Driving in New Mexico
According to the New Mexico Statutes section 66-5-11 a parent, guardian, employer, or any responsible person should sign a minor’s application for a driver’s license or instruction permit. If the underaged person causes damage while driving, the liability will be assigned to the person who signed the minor’s application. The liability is “joint and several,” meaning that the parent and the minor can be individually or collectively responsible for the resulting damages.
Under section 66-5-11, liability isn’t capped at any dollar amount. Parents or guardians can be responsible for any injuries and vehicle damages that happened in the accident caused by an underaged child.
Since damages aren’t capped or limited, that will include compensation for the pain and suffering that the victim faced from the car accident.
If parents or guardians deposit proof of financial responsibility with the state, they can avoid liability (under section 66-5-11).
Parents can do this by showing proof of insurance or a bond.
Parents in New Mexico May Still Be Accountable Under Common Law
Parents can be financially responsible for their children’s actions even in situations where New Mexico’s parental responsibility laws don’t apply.
The non-statutory secondary legal authority (“common law” requires parents who know their child can act reckless or careless expects them to take reasonable steps to keep that child from causing harm to others.
If the parent knows their child has bought a baseball bat and swings the bat around the neighborhood near parked cars, or people, the parent should notice and warn this behavior. If the parent doesn’t do this to stop the child from harming someone or damaging property, and the child ends up doing this, the parent would be considered negligent for not taking responsible steps to control the child’s behavior.
In practical terms, this could be hard for proving, but the parents would still be on the legal hooks.
Should You Hire an Attorney
It’s not a pleasant thing to be financially responsible for the willful or malicious actions of your child, however, if that happens, parents will have to pay for the injuries and damages.
Be sure to seek help from an attorney who would create your defense. Some children aren’t problematic, and the accident might not have happened because of a willful intention.
FBD Law team is here to review your case. Let us answer all your questions and create a strong defense.