Minor Children And Auto Accidents - Understanding Some Facts About Age And Lawsuits

Posted on: 22 August 2016

If you are injured in a car accident and the other driver was negligent, then you have the legal right to sue the driver for damages that include pain and suffering, lost wages, and vehicle repairs. Many car accident lawsuits are fairly straightforward and are likely to be settled outside of court. However, if the vehicle was driven by a minor or if a minor caused the accident, then this may complicate the case a bit. To understand some facts about children and how age may affect a personal injury case, keep reading.

Negligence And Accidents

Most personal injury lawsuits will hinge on whether or not you and your lawyer can prove that the individual who caused the vehicle accident was negligent or careless in some manner. Adults are held to a fairly strict standard when it comes to care. For example, if an adult drives through a stop sign, speeds while it is raining, or fails to notice a car driving in the left lane before merging, then these acts are considered careless or thoughtless. If they caused an accident, then the driver may be deemed negligent.

Young Children

Minor children may still be considered negligent if they complete an act of carelessness. However, minors may or may not be held to the same standards as adults. This will depend on the age of a child and whether they understood what they were doing was wrong. Most states, like Pennsylvania, recognize that a child under the age of seven does not recognize consequences to the degree that their actions can be considered negligent. In other words, young children do not recognize right and wrong or cause and effect, and they cannot be held liable for accidents. For example, if a six year old child is sitting in a running car and moves the shifter into reverse, then he or she will not be responsible for damages if the car reversed into your vehicle.

While a child cannot be held responsible for an accident if they are under the age of seven, the parent can be held negligent if the child is over the age of 10. In many states, like New York, you can sue a parent or guardian who was not watching a young child properly when the accident occurred. However, it has to be proven that the child acted in a malicious way to cause damages.

In the above example, if the mother left her 10 year old child in a running car to grab some milk at a convenience store when the child shifted the car into gear, then the parent may not be considered liable for damages. The accident was likely an incident that the child did not mean to cause.

The mother can be sued under the parental responsibility law that exists in your state, though, if the child acted in some way maliciously. For example, if the child was left in the running car and got into the driver seat to deliberately drive the vehicle into your parked car, then this is a malicious act. The parent can then be sued under the parental responsibility law in your state.

Older Children

If an older child caused a vehicle accident, then the child may be held responsible for the incident, regardless of intent. The age will vary from state to state, but teenagers between the ages of 14 and 18 may be considered negligent for accidents that they have caused. However, the child likely will not be held to the same standards of care and safety that an adult would. Generally, the child will be held to the same level of understanding, experience, and care that another individual of the same age would be. A 14-year-old child may not be deemed as responsible for a vehicle accident as a 16 year old would be, simply because the 14 year old is far less likely to understand how a vehicle can cause severe injuries if not driven properly.

Some states, like Virginia, do have specific laws that apply to minors who operate cars and trucks. These laws state that the child will be held to the same level of care as an adult when a car is driven. This means that there is a possibility that an older child or teenager can be sued for damages, regardless of age. You will need to speak to a personal injury attorney to learn more about the laws in your state and how they directly apply to your situation.


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During a long road trip, we made an emergency stop at a motel that I wasn't completely comfortable with. Unfortunately, that was the only motel in the area, and we couldn't drive any further safely. While leaving the motel in the morning, the handrail on the steps broke, and my son and husband tumbled down the stairs and got hurt. They were taken by ambulance to a hospital where we spent the next four days. While there, I contacted a few personal injury lawyers to find out what I should do. Find out what you should do in a situation such as this.

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