In tears, your child comes home from a bike ride. He tells you that he crashed into a parked car and left quickly so he wouldn’t be yelled at. What do you do in this situation? Are you liable for damage caused to the vehicle? To what extent and under what circumstances can parents be held liable for the actions of a minor? Here is a little guide to help you adequately protect yourself and your children.
What is injury?
Injury is the result of an incident caused by one person that affects another person, whether the incident was intentional or not. Specifically, it could be loss of use due to breakage of an object or a physical injury inflicted during an incident.
How should you handle injury to another person?
When injury is caused to another person by a child, it is important to quickly notify your insurer (or broker). Why? Your insurer or broker will make a note of it in your file and will be able to provide you with sound advice on what to do next. If you receive a formal notice, send a copy to and contact your insurer.
How can civil liability coverage help you?
Civil liability encompasses a number of elements, including civil fault, injury caused to another person, and chain of causality. As all home insurance policies include civil liability coverage, it is a portion of your policy that will cover you in the event of a formal notice.
Civil liability protection covers the insured named on the insurance policy. According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) and the Quebec home insurance form, the definition of the insured includes the insured in question and the following people, provided they live under the same roof:
- the insured’s spouse;
- relatives of the insured;
- relatives of the insured’s spouse;
- any person under 18 years of age in the care of the insured or his or her spouse;
- any person 18 years of age or over under the legal custody of the insured or his or her spouse who is named in the insurance.
Several people can thus be covered by the civil liability coverage in your insurance policy, which is why it is important to ask your insurer for a sufficient amount of coverage for all potential risks.
Most insurance companies will offer you one or two million dollars in civil liability coverage. However, it is possible to purchase umbrella insurance, which will provide you with additional civil liability coverage beyond that included in your basic insurance policy.
When do you stop being liable for your underage child?
Many factors come into play to determine, once before a judge, whether parents are liable for the acts of their underage child, including the child’s ability to tell right from wrong and the magnitude of the consequences of the child’s acts. Therefore, depending on factors such as maturity and education, a 7-year-old child could be held liable, while a 12-year-old child may be exonerated. In his article, Christian Duval, an instructor, argues that parents of a child who is almost a person of full age are rarely convicted and that, conversely, parents of a young child who caused injury are treated more harshly by the courts.
It is important to remember that you can be held directly liable for injury caused by your child or any other people in your care. It is thus essential to have adequate civil liability coverage to avoid legal trouble for mere errors or omissions.