Parental Responsibility Laws in Georgia

Understanding a parent or legal guardian's potential liability for a minor's "willful misconduct" or negligence in Georgia.

Georgia, like a lot of states, has passed a number of  parental responsibility laws. These are statutes that can be used to hold a parent liable for certain actions taken by a minor child. In some states, parents can be held financially responsible for damages resulting from a minor's willful actions, and in other states even an accident caused by a minor can trigger a parent's civil liability. In this article we'll look at Georgia's parental responsibility laws.

What are Georgia’s Parental Responsibility Laws?

Georgia’s Parental Responsibility laws describe the circumstances under which parents might be responsible for the actions of their children. Georgia's laws cover:

(Note: There is no direct link to the online versions of these statutes. The links above take you to the main page of the online version of the Georgia Code. You'll need to navigate through to the relevant citations.)

Keep in mind that Georgia sets the age of majority at 18, so the statutes we discuss below only apply to custodial parents/guardians of minor children.

Parents are Liable for a Child’s Torts in Georgia

A "tort" is a civil law term that encompasses any kind of act resulting in harm. And under  Georgia Code section 51-2-2, parents will be liable for any tort their child commits. It makes no difference whether the child commits the tort intentionally, or due to  negligence. The parent will be on the financial hook -- period.

So, section 51-2-2 could trigger a parent's financial responsibility for injuries and property damage resulting from a car accident or any other kind of mishap.

Parental Liability for Malicious Acts in Georgia

Parents in Georgia will also be financially responsible for damages that result from the malicious or willful actions of their children. Liability under  Georgia Code section 51-2-3  extends to both property damage and medical bills that result from bodily injuries.

The amount of a parent's liability is limited to $10,000, for all damages stemming from the child's actions, plus court costs payable to the claimant who was harmed and brought the action to court.

Parental Liability Under the "Family Purpose Doctrine"

In Georgia, a case known as  Hicks v. Newman  brought an important interpretation of parental responsibility for car accidents caused by a family member under a legal concept known as the "family purpose doctrine."

In  Hicks, the Georgia Court of Appeals explained that mere ownership of a vehicle, without more, is insufficient to establish the vehicle owner's liability for the negligence of another driver. However, when an owner of a vehicle maintains the vehicle for the use and convenience of his family, the owner may be held liable for the negligence of a family member who was using the vehicle for a family purpose.

To be liable under the family purpose doctrine, there are four (4) requirements:


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