Generally speaking, the law assumes that children do not have the same mature judgment as an adult would. For that reason, the rules regarding liability, as well as compensation, for minors are different in many cases. Accident attorneys who handle accidents involving children are familiar with these nuances, whether or not the claims involve an injury to a child or an accident caused by a child.
Legal issues involving injuries to children
When a child is injured during an accident, there are certain rules about the type of compensation available, who has the right to seek that compensation and how it can be paid out for the minor’s benefit. These rules differ from one state to the next, but generally speaking, a child can recover for pain and suffering, physical and mental injuries, and permanent injuries or disability, just like an adult can. As for the medical expenses incurred, it is the parent or legal guardian who has the right to be compensated for the medical bills paid on behalf of the child.
Parents can negotiate settlement on behalf of the child
Clearly, a child cannot negotiate a claim for himself. Instead, a parent or legal guardian is allowed to negotiate a settlement on behalf of the child. In many states, the parent or guardian must obtain approval from a judge before the child’s claim can be finally settled. This approval process is usually simple and straightforward.
Accidents Caused by Children
Accident attorneys can also help when a child may be the cause of the accident resulting in injuries to others. Although legal liability for an accident caused by a child is still based on theories of negligence, the same standards of care expected of an adult does not apply to a minor. In order to be negligent or careless, there must first be some understanding of the risks. Because of a lack of maturity, minors are not expected to understand the risks the same way an adult would.
Liability depends on the age of the child
Typically, the law will apply a range of standards depending on the age of the child. For example, very young children (age 7 and under) are typically not held liable for any accidental injuries they may cause because they are basically too young to understand their conduct and its consequences. That does not preclude the parents or guardians from being held liable if it can be shown that they failed to control the child.
Old enough to know right from wrong
Once a child is old enough to know right from wrong, however, the child can be held responsible for intentional injuries caused by that child. For instance, if a child intentionally injures another child or intentionally takes some action that causes an accident, the child who commits the intentional act, as well as the child’s parents, can be held liable.
Teenagers are basically like adults
Older children are basically held liable for their own negligent conduct. The standard of care expected of older children is generally measured by what other children of the same age would understand is reasonably careful. And once children become teenagers, they are basically held to the same standard as adults. Particularly, when driving a car a minor is held to exactly the same standards as adults.
Liability for your minor’s car accident
In most cases, a minor teenager who is driving a car is covered by either his or her own insurance or a parent’s insurance policy—most likely their parent’s. If the minor is named on a parent’s insurance policy, or if the car the minor is driving is owned by a parent, the parent is liable, which means that you can collect from the parent’s insurance company.
If the minor is the registered owner of the car but has no insurance, most states will still make the parent responsible for damages if the accident was caused by the minor, though there may be limits. Also, if you are involved in an accident with a minor who has little or no insurance coverage, you may be able to file a claim against a parent and collect from their policy.
If you have questions regarding accidents involving children, or any other personal injury concerns in Arkansas or Missouri, please contact the Cottrell Law Office for a consultation, either online or by calling us as (888) 433-4861.
He is licensed to practice law in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas, eastern Arkansas, western Arkansas, and western Missouri. He was Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in Crawford County, Kansas from 1987-1989.
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