Child Negligence: How Young is Too Young

One issue that does not arise often in negligence case, but can be a factor is whether a child who causes an injury can be held liable for the damages. It is clear that when an adult, or even a mature teen is negligent and causes injury, they will be held liable for the damages. But what about when a child is negligent?

Unlike what some people may think or say, negligence law across the U.S. is individualized to particular states. As a result, there are different rules that apply to similar situations all over the country. This is no more true than with child negligence. One state may say that a 7-year-old is incapable of being negligent in the eyes of the law, while another may make the cut off 5 years old.

This principle was on display earlier this year when the Utah Supreme Court announced in a decision what the age-based negligence cut off would be for that state. In Nielson v. Bell, a babysitter sued a 5-year-old boy and his parents for negligence when the boy threw a toy shark at the woman, causing her to go blind in one eye. The case went to the Supreme Court of Utah where they decided that as a matter of law, a 5-year-old in Utah is incapable of being negligent in the eyes of the law.

Florida and Child Negligence

Like Utah and other states, Florida has a rule regarding child negligence. But it is different from other states, as is to be expected. The Florida Supreme Court took on a case in 1970 seeking to answer the question of how young a child could be to consider liable for negligence in Florida. In that case, a 4-year-old child was accused of being contributorily negligent to a car accident, and the court needed to decide whether that was legally possible. In their opinion, the court determined that as a matter of law, a 6-year-old child or younger could not be held liable for negligence. And that rule stands today.

When it comes to other children older than 6 years, other rules apply, too. For example, if a child younger than 18 is accused of negligence, then a specific standard will be applied to the situation to assess liability. The standard is what a reasonable child of similar age and circumstances would have done. And that question is for the jury to decide.

Needless to say, any case involving children and negligence will necessarily be complex and difficult to take to court and win. But the same is true for any case involving personal injury. Experience and expertise are the most important factors that any victim should consider before hiring an attorney to take on a case.

Panama City Area Accident and Injury Attorney

If you have been injured in an accident, or because of another’s negligence, contact us. Our team at The Pittman Firm will help you understand what your options are, and what steps you need to take going forward so you can be fully and justly compensated.
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