Your legal questions answered by the experts of Carter & Valle Law Firm.
Question submitted 10/20/2010:
A little over a year ago we had a treatment foster child placed in our home. In the middle of the night he stole my Honda Element and drove it back to his family in Gallop. I called the police and it was recovered. Ther is close to $6000.00 damage on the vehicle. His parents said they would pay for it and they will not. I wanted him charged with a felony for car theft and I don't think they even did that. The local officials in Gallop won't call me back to let me know the outcome of the case. Is a civil lawsuit an option in my case. What would it entail?
Answer from CD Carter of Carter & Valle Law Firm:
Thank you for caring for treatment foster children. It is unfortunate the experience has had such bad implications. A few things about your facts that may help in an informational forum like this: Civilly, parents are limited in the amount they owe for intentional acts of children. Statute sets the amount a $4000 plus attorney fees. There is more to that issue. If the child's judgment was impaired, he may have only been negligent, a more likely scenario since the child has treatment issues. As to the car theft, you are the victims whose interests are represented by the state in prosecuting the crime, not his parents in Gallup. However, the availability of the keys and access to the vehicle might even be used as evidence of your permissively allowing the use of the vehicle and that the damage that arose was from that permission. If the child was hurt in a collision, there may even be issues of your negligence, depending upon his age and the foreseeabilty of the risk.
A civil lawsuit could be the answer, but people are rarely covered for intentional acts. The parents could also bankrupt out your claim, even if successful. On a positive note, homeowner's insurance of the child's family might be available to pay you under the right circumstances. You need to find a lawyer who practices in Metropolitan/Magistrate court, assuming that the loss was not covered by any of your own automobile insurance. This is information, not advice.
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