A parental responsibility law makes parents financially liable for certain actions taken by their children, meaning that parents may face a civil lawsuit over something their minor child does. Like a lot of states, Alaska has passed its own version of this kind of statute, and in this article we’ll explain some key aspects of the law.
You can find Alaska’s parental responsibility law at Alaska Statutes section 09.65.255, and it makes clear that either parent or both parents can be held financially liable for certain actions taken by their minor child (meaning a child who is unemancipated and is under 18 years old).
According to the statute, the court will make an assessment of liability based not on who has legal custody of the child, but rather “with due consideration for the actual care and custody of the minor provided by the parents.” In other words, the court will focus on the extent of each parent’s responsibility for and involvement in the day-to-day supervision of the child.
Section 09.65.255 also spells out who is not liable for a minor child’s actions, and those individuals include:
This law only triggers a parent’s liability when the minor child’s “knowing or intentional act” ends up causing damage to real or personal property that belongs to a person, business, or other entity.
This means section 09.65.255 can only be used to hold a parent liable for the costs of property damage in Alaska when the child acts purposefully and/or with the clear intent to cause the damage. The child’s negligence or carelessness is not enough. So, a parent would not be liable for damages resulting from a car accident caused by their minor child, but they could be on the financial hook for acts of vandalism, like graffiti.
There are two tiers to the limits of a parent’s financial responsibility under section 09.65.255.
The initial threshold limits parental liability to $15,000 for the property damage caused by a child, plus reimbursement of the property owner’s costs of taking the matter to court.
The second threshold comes into play if the parent has an insurance policy that would cover the property damage, and the policy limits exceed $15,000. In that situation, parental liability is capped at the policy limits or $25,000, whichever is lower.
Beyond what section 09.65.255 says, parental liability for a child’s actions may still exist in Alaska under traditional fault theories like negligence. Basically, a parent may be liable for any resulting harm if they know of their child’s dangerous tendencies, yet they fail to take reasonable steps to properly supervise the child, and someone ends up getting injured in a way that was foreseeable. Learn more about Proving Fault for Accidents and Injuries.