A parental responsibility law typically can be used to hold a parent or guardian financially responsible for harm caused by a minor child. In many states, parents and guardians can be liable for injuries and property damage resulting from a child’s “willful” conduct, while in some states parents/guardians can even be jointly liable for accidents caused by minor children.
So, what about Maryland? There is no state law that makes a parent or guardian civilly liable for a minor’s negligence, or for an accident caused by a minor. And even intentional misconduct on the part of a minor in Maryland will not give rise to parental liability unless the minor has been convicted of a crime in connection with the act.
In that way, Maryland’s parental responsibility law is really just a statute that makes a parent liable for restitution to the victim of a criminal act committed by a minor child. You can find this law at Maryland Criminal Procedure Code section 11-604. (Browse the Annotated Code of Maryland.)
Parental Liability Under Maryland Criminal Procedure Code Section 11-604
This law makes clear that, if a child is the defendant in a criminal case and is convicted of a crime, the court may order the child, the child's parent, or both to pay restitution to the victim. “Restitution” means monetary compensation for losses stemming from the criminal act.
In Maryland, the parent of a minor (in other words, the parent of a child under the age of 18) can be liable for restitution for the following types of losses suffered by a crime victim as a result of the minor’s act:
- damage to property
- loss of property (or diminished value of property)
- medical or dental bills
- counseling bills
- funeral or burial expenses
- direct out-of-pocket loss
- loss of earnings, or
- rehabilitation expenses
A parent’s financial liability for restitution under section 11-604 is limited to $10,000 “for each child's acts arising out of a single incident.”
Can Parents Be Liable Beyond Maryland’s Restitution Statute?
Section 11-604 aside, a parent may still be civilly liable for a child’s actions in Maryland under the traditional fault theory of negligence. It’s rare for this to happen, however. Basically, the injured person would need to show that the parent somehow condoned the minor’s conduct, or knew of the child’s dangerous tendencies and failed to take reasonable steps to prevent foreseeable harm to others. Learn more about Accidents and Injuries Involving Children.