Were you injured or had property damage due to the actions of a child? This is a tricky subject for anyone considering a personal injury lawsuit. Several unique factors affect your ability to recover damages from a minor. Here are a few of the most important.
1. Their Age
Minors are those who haven't reached the age of adulthood — or 18 years in the United States. However, minors are also grouped by age further for legal purposes. Many states consider very young children as being unable to be legally negligent due to their ongoing development. And even minors in their teens are held less responsible for irresponsible actions.
2. Their Intentions
Did the child intend to cause harm or were they just negligent? Intentional harm, such as ramming a car into a neighbor's house, creates a much easier case against a minor. However, children are generally assumed to be more inherently negligent, adding hurdles to your case.
3. Actions of Peers
In general, the standard for deciding someone was negligent is what would be a reasonable standard for someone in their situation. The actions of an adult are weighed against what the jury believes a reasonable adult would do in that circumstance. The actions of professionals are weighed against other professionals.
However, the actions of a child are weighed against what is reasonable for children to understand and be responsible for.
4. The Activity Involved
What was the minor doing when they caused an accident or injury? Children who are engaging in adult activities are more likely to be held to adult standards.
The most common arena for this is when a minor is driving a vehicle. They are given adult privileges and so may be held to more adult standards while doing so. However, a minor who is skateboarding or playing baseball is more likely to be held to standards for a child.
5. Parental Responsibility
Can you hold a parent responsible for the child's actions? In many cases, yes. A parent who knowingly gave the car keys to an irresponsible minor — or just left the keys available to them — can be held liable for their negligence. The good news is that it's also usually easier to collect damages from the adult or their insurer.
Where Should You Start?
Only through careful analysis of these and other factors can you make the right decision about suing a minor (or their parent) for personal injury. Start by meeting with a personal injury attorney in your state today.