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When a lawsuit involves a kid, the rules can sometimes be a little different. Being under the age of majority -- which is set by statute in most states at 18 -- children generally aren't able to file lawsuits themselves, requiring the help of parent or a guardian appointed by the court.
But what about when a child causes another person to suffer injury or property damage? If you're injured by the reckless or intentional acts of a child under 18, can you sue someone else's kid?
Here are three points to consider:
1. Liability May Depend on Age, Activity.
Whether a child can be held liable for causing another's injuries may depend on how old that child is and what kind of activity the child was engaged in at the time the incident occurred.
Children under a certain, very young age are generally not held responsible for their own conduct and thus can't be sued. Even a child who may be old enough to bear some legal responsibility may be held to a lower legal standard or a "reasonable child" standard (i.e., that the child should act as a reasonable child of the same age, experience, and intelligence would act).
However, when a child is engaged is a so-called "adult activity," he may be held to the same standard of care as an adult. That means if the child fails to live up to the adult standard of reasonable behavior and causes another person's injury, simply being a kid won't prevent him from being liable for that person's injuries.
2. Parents May Be Liable Instead, or in Addition.
Although the law varies from state to state, parents are generally held liable for the conduct of their children, both financially and legally through vicarious liability.
Parents may be liable for injuries caused by their children through their own negligence as well, such as negligently supervising their children, or negligently entrusting a child with a dangerous object like a car.
3. Parental Liability May Be Capped.
In the event that a parent is held liable for the conduct of a child, the amount of damages that may be recovered against the parent may be subject to a damages cap, limiting the total liability of the parent. States with parental liability damages caps include New York, Arizona, and Missouri.
If you are injured in an accident involving or caused by a child, an experienced personal injury attorney will be able to analyze your case and help you seek compensation for your injuries.