Visitor Question

Tooth knocked out in school fight…

Submitted By: Anonymous (Virginia)

Two boys were play fighting at school. Things escalated and after being punched in the chest, one boy punched back and hit the other boy in the face. One of the boy’s teeth were knocked out, requiring emergency dental work.

Are the parents of the child who knocked out the tooth liable for the medical expenses? The boy who caused the injury was punched first in the chest by the other boy. It would appear to be self defense, right? Where does liability sit in this scenario? Thank you.

Disclaimer: Our response is not formal legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Do not rely upon the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site, when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Always get a personalized case review from a local attorney.


Dear Anonymous,

In most cases, parents are responsible or “liable” for the injuries or property damage caused by their children. To establish liability, the injured boy’s parents must establish the injury was physically unprovoked.

In most states, physical provocation is not sufficient to establish legal reason to be able to assault another person. The only exception is when the physical provocation is such that it expressly implies the person is about to commit an assault.

For example, if a person says something like “I think you are ugly and stupid,” that isn’t sufficient legal grounds for assaulting the person making those remarks.

Yet, if the same person were to say something like “I’m going to punch you in the face and stab you,” and the person making that statement was in a position to take such action, the other person would probably have grounds for striking first.

If self defense can be established, the boy striking the other boy may escape liability. Further, whether the boy had legal cause to strike the other boy will depend on the time which passed between the punch in the chest, and the striking back.

In many cases, the person must retreat from an explosive situation… where reasonably and practically possible.

Learn more here: Parent Liability for Children

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from a licensed attorney.

Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call 888-972-0892.

We wish you the best with your claim,


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