Are Parents Liable for Their Children’s Mistakes in Colorado?


When you were a child and you entered a drug store or gift shop, you can probably recall your mother, grandmother, or a shop clerk saying that if “you break it, you have to pay for it.” Of course, what that really meant is your parents would have to pay for it, and then they could make you work it off or pay them back.

What does the law say about children who cause property damage or hurt other people? For example, what if a teenager intentionally destroys a neighbor’s bicycle or what if they intentionally bully another teen after school and beat them up? If the victim ends up having thousands in medical bills, who is on the hook for the hospital bill? Can the parents of the teenager who attacked the victim be forced to pay the bill?

When Minors Cause Bodily Injuries or Property Damage

Every state has what are called “parental responsibility” laws and Colorado is no different. Under Section 13-21-107 and 13-21-107(2) of the Colorado Revised Statutes, it states that whenever a minor (someone under the age of 18) willfully and maliciously damages or destroys someone else’s property or causes bodily injury to another person, the parents can be held liable of up to $3,500, in addition to court costs and attorney fees, providing the child is living with his or her parents.

In regard to “property,” parents can be responsible for all kinds of property damage, whether it occurred at a school, a church, a residential property, a business, government property, etc. The parents will essentially be responsible for up to $3,500. So, if the damage exceeded $3,500, the parents will not be responsible for any damages beyond $3,500.

For some parents, $3,500 may not sound too bad, but if the child caused damage to multiple property owners, the parents can be liable for $3,500 for each victim. For example, if a child was joyriding with friends and took a bat to 10 parked cars, the parents can be responsible for up to $3,500 in damage for each car that was damaged.

I hope this article helped clear a few things up for you. If you need more information, I encourage you to contact my firm to set up a consultation.