blog home Bicycle Accident Parent Liability When a Child Harms Others While Riding an E-bike

By Renee Nordstrand on September 20, 2023

Painting of an electrical bike on pavement

E-bikes are growing in popularity because they are a fun and convenient way to get around. Many parents in California are buying e-bikes for their children. Parents, however, need to be aware that they may be held liable if a passenger, pedestrian, or someone else is injured due to an e-bike crash caused by their child’s actions.

There are complex legal issues involved when someone is harmed by a child, and this could have serious implications for parents who allow their children to ride e-bikes. Recently, in Los Angeles, the parents of an 11-year-old girl agreed to pay a $1.5 million good-faith settlement when the girl’s 12-year-old passenger was killed in an e-bike accident.

If you have a minor child who rides an e-bike, it is important to speak with them about safe riding habits. Do not allow your child to ride an e-bike if the manufacturer’s guidelines state that children under 18 should not be using the product.

When Are Parents Liable for Their Children’s Actions in CA?

Parental liability refers to the legal responsibility of a parent or guardian for the actions of their child that cause harm to a person or property. Children aren’t always aware of the consequences of their actions, and they usually lack the financial resources to compensate victims. Parental liability laws encourage parents and guardians to adequately supervise their children in order to prevent behavior that could injure others or damage property.

If a child practicing safe riding habits accidentally falls or crashes a bicycle that is intended for use by children, then there would not be any parental liability for harm caused to others. However, parents and guardians may be held liable in cases involving willful misconduct, which includes intentionally careless or dangerous actions. For example, if a minor e-bike rider who is carrying a passenger intentionally swerves in front of a car, then the rider’s parents and guardians may be held legally responsible for injuries that result.

Factors that may be considered when determining parental responsibility for injuries caused by their child’s actions include:

  • Is it a case of willful misconduct?
  • Did the parent take reasonable care to prevent the accident from occurring?
  • Did the parent observe the child’s dangerous behavior that led to the accident?
  • Was the parent aware of the child’s tendency to behave in a careless manner?
  • Did the parent knowingly allow their child to ride an e-bike that was unsafe?
  • Did the manufacturer state that the e-bike was not intended for use by minors?

Factors That Impact Parental Liability

In California, there is a $25,000 liability cap per wrongful act that pertains to injuries caused by the negligent actions of a minor child. Available damages in these cases are limited to medical, dental, and hospital expenses. Defendants in these judgments are exempt from punitive damages and noneconomic awards for pain and suffering, disfigurement, or mental distress.

Parents and guardians of a minor child in California are liable for any willful act their child performs as long as the parent or guardian has custody and control over the child. Parental liability does not apply to children over 18 years of age.

Parents are expected to dispense reasonable supervision for their children. Parents cannot be expected to account for a child’s behavior at every moment, but they should provide guidance that helps their child make good decisions.

Legal arguments that may impact parental liability for a minor child’s behavior include:

  • Direct liability covers the failure to supervise a child when the parent is present.
  • Vicarious liability results when a parent fails to adequately supervise and control their child’s behavior and knowingly allows a child to commit dangerous actions or engage in behavior that may be harmful to others.
  • Negligence liability includes situations where parents allow their child to do something inherently unsafe, such as riding an e-bike on a steep hill or operating an e-bike with faulty brakes.

Speak with an Experienced Santa Barbara Bike Accident Attorney About Your Case

If you were injured in any type of bicycle crash or e-bike accident, you have the right to seek damages against any person whose negligence contributed to your injuries or their legal guardian. The experienced Santa Barbara personal injury lawyers at NordstrandBlack PC have recovered millions of dollars in settlements and judgments for our clients.

We’ve been helping people in Santa Barbara for over 30 years. Our firm has a perfect 10.0 rating from Avvo and an AV Preeminent Rating from Martindale-Hubbell. You won’t owe us anything unless we win your case.

Contact us at (805) 962-2022 to schedule a FREE consultation today.

Posted in: Bicycle Accident