When an adult injures another person, it's fairly easy to attach liability to the individual for the damages that result from said injury. However, the opposite is true for injuries caused by minor children. If you suffer losses or damages as the result of the actions of a child, your ability to collect compensation depends on a couple of factors.
The Child's Age
One major factor that a judge considers when determining if a child can be held liable is the person's age. In many states, children under a certain age cannot legally be held liable for their actions. This is typically known as the "tender age" when children are not capable of understanding the rightness or wrongness of their actions.
The exact age varies from state to state (or may not be defined at all), but in general children under the age of 7 are immune from tort liability. So if a 6-year-old child ran in front of your car causing you to swerve into a tree, the court would likely rule against you in a lawsuit for the simple fact that the child's age prevents him or her action from being held liable for the incident.
The Child's Mental Capacity
Although a child may be over the age of immunity, that doesn't guarantee the court will hold the kid liable for damages he or she causes. Usually, judges will also take the child's mental capacity and development into consideration. If the child is not mentally competent or developed enough to understand the significance of his or her actions, then the court may also rule in the defendant's favor.
This type of situation often presents itself in cases where an older child suffers a disability that hinders his or her mental or intellectual growth. For instance, a 14-year-old kid with the mental capacity of a 7 year old may be absolved of liability despite his or her chronological age.
Attaching Liability to Parents
In many cases involving children, the only course of action is to attach liability to the child's parents for both legal and financial reasons. It's one thing to sue a 10 year old for breaking a window. However, since children that age typically do not have sources of income, you may not see any money from the case until the kid can be legally employed.
Therefore, the alternative is to make the parents responsible for the child's actions using the vicarious liability tort. This particular tort makes one party responsible for another party's actions under certain circumstances. In the case of parent and children, parents can be held responsible if they fail to restrain their children from causing injury when they have a duty to do so or if they provide the child with a dangerous instrument.
Using vicarious liability can be tricky depending on the circumstances of the case, so it's a good idea to contact a personal injury attorney for assistance with developing the best legal strategy for obtaining the outcome you desire.Share