According to Florida law, a person injured in an accident might be held partially responsible for the conditions that caused it. When the accident victim is a child under the age of 6, however, there is no issue of comparative negligence. A young child is assumed to be incapable of contributing to the cause of the accident. When approaching their 6th birthday, there might be a discussion of allowing the children to be held legally responsible to some degree.
When can a child be held responsible?
A child over the age of 6 is considered by the legal system to be old enough to take some precautions, and therefore might be liable for the accident to some degree. When a personal injury case goes to trial, the jury goes through a process of determining the degree to which the child might be responsible. Some of the issues the jury considers include:
- The age of the child
- The child’s developmental ability to take precaution
- The child’s mental capacity
- The specific details of the accident
The jury considers what a child of the same age can be expected to anticipate, understand and process under similar circumstances. The jury must also determine whether the child possessed the emotional maturity to understand the consequences of the behavior.
Some cases involving children
There are often-cited cases in Florida involving the issue of comparative negligence of a minor child. In Goode v. Walt Disney World, 4-year-old Joel Goode drowned in a manmade waterway inside the park. The mother was found to be 50 percent negligent, reducing her award by half. The child, according to the law, was exempt from any of the responsibility for the accident. In Ruiz v. Westbrooke Lake Homes, Inc., an 11-year-old boy was injured while trying to jump from a monkey bar to a slide. In this case, the child was shown to be negligent and did not recover damages from the defendant. There are many factors to consider when examining a personal injury case, and comparative negligence is one of them. When children are involved, we must also consider the fact that children develop physically, mentally and emotionally at very different rates.
If your child has been injured in an accident, please contact our experienced St. Petersburg personal injury attorneys for a free consultation.