Sometimes, teenage substance abuse is unpreventable. Teenagers tend to experiment and rebel by drinking or engaging in recreational substance abuse, but what you may not know is you may be legally liable for the actions of teenagers that occur in your home—even if you are not aware of them.

Underage Drinking

Some parents consider offering their house as a safe zone for their children and children's friends to safely consume alcohol, where they are not at risk of self-injury, driving, or other irreparable harm. However, liability laws make adults directly responsible for any known underage drinking that goes on in their house; essentially, this means that if you are aware of any underage citizen consuming alcohol in your house, you can be subject to jail time, fines, and lawsuits.

In fact, many states carry liability laws that hold parents accountable for underage drinking even if they were not aware of it at the time of the infraction. Even if no harm comes to anyone and the situation is controlled, each count of contributing to the delinquency of a minor can carry fines of up to $2,500, or jail time of up to a year. Despite this, some states do allow controlled alcohol serving to parents' own children—but don't take the risk. Make a commitment to understand your state's laws.

Drug Use

It's common knowledge that providing any kind of illegal drug or substance to a minor is a very serious crime. However, parents may also be liable for their children or other minors who consume or abuse illegal substances on their property.

If a minor is found to have abused a substance in an adult's household, the adult may be responsible, depending on specific state laws. Some states may only hold a parent responsible if some type of harm comes as a result of the abuse; certain other states, however, may hold parents responsible even if they were not aware of the situation at the time.

Injury Liability

Though a secondary concern in many cases, parents may be liable for any injuries sustained by guests in their home. This is somewhat independent of alcohol or drug abuse; if underage teenagers are in your house for a party or other social gathering and they somehow injure themselves, even if you are not directly at fault, you could be held liable for their injuries.

Alcohol and other drug abuse may increase the likelihood of injury primarily by the associated sensory distortion and impaired judgment, but the number of participants involved may also increase the likelihood of injury. If your teen is hosting a party or social gathering at your house, ensure that all guests are properly supervised to prevent this risk of injury. Ask other parents for help if you expect a large number of guests.

It's important to be prepared with a full understanding of the laws in your state. For specific questions, you should consult a lawyer. However, the best way to avoid liability is to never allow underage substance abuse, and always supervise underage social gatherings in your home.