AmI financially responsible for damage/costs if my minor son stole a car?

UPDATED: Aug 25, 2011

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AmI financially responsible for damage/costs if my minor son stole a car?

My 15 year old and some friends took another guy’s car (stole) and hit a mailbox causing some minor damage. Nevertheless, my son is going to juvenile now. The owner is trying to force me to pay impound and repair bills. Am I, since he is a minor, responsible? Is it their responsibility since they are the ones who left the keys in the car. Also, they had the choice of full coverage instead of liability.

Asked on August 25, 2011 Missouri


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

1) The parent of a minor is legally responsible for the damages his child causes. So if the child is legally at fault--which it sounds like your son would be, since he stole a car, which is an intentional tort--the parent is therefore financially responsible for the cost or damages.

2) The fact that the owner did not get full coverage is completely irrelevant. The law does not force people to buy full coverage, so they are free to decline; the fact that  someone elected to not voluntarily buy insurance does not affect the obligation of an at-fault party to pay.

3) If you son was only 4 or 5, then the fact that the owner may have been negligent in leaving keys in the car might be germane, but since a 4 or 5 year old doesn't know better and may "play" with a car if he finds the keys. But a 15 year old knows better and would be held to have committed an intentional tort. The other party's possible negligence has no bearing on a deliberate bad or criminal act.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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