How Old Does Someone Have to Be for You to Sue Them or For Them to Sue You?

Sun, Feb 28, 2016

Personal Injury

9386283372_5689dc24d6_bLet’s say your neighbor’s kid spray-painted your house, damaged your cars, maimed your dog, and trampled the landscaping. The neighbor doesn’t want to pay up. However, you are mad, emotionally scarred, and out some money. Can you sue the kid or just his parents?

Then let’s say you are a newborn who is catastrophically injured due to medical malpractice, do you have a case? Or just your parents?

What about small claims situations? How do those work with minors?

Florida has parental responsibility laws. This relates to scenario number one, where a child causes damages. Under Florida’s Parental Responsibility Law, parents can be held responsible for vandalism, property damage, personal injury, theft, and more. In regard to vandalism, Florida says that parents can be held responsible for many types of damages, with “The recovery shall be limited to the actual damages in addition to taxable court costs.” Traffic issues for minors are addressed also in the Florida State Statutes in section XXIII Chapter 322. There it says: “Any negligence or willful misconduct of a minor under the age of 18 years when driving a motor vehicle upon a highway shall be imputed to the person who has signed the application of such minor for a permit or license, which person shall be jointly and severally liable with such minor for any damages caused by such negligence or willful misconduct.”

So make sure your children are taught good habits for driving, even getting specialized instruction and learning that vehicles should not be used unsafely for any reason, that they are not a toy, and that results of even just fooling around can be very dangerous. As for vandalism, make sure they understand that pranks aren’t always funny and could land both of you in a lot of trouble and come with extreme consequences.

However, Florida law does not limit the ability to sue parents only to traffic issues and vandalism. There is a whole host of reasons someone could try to sue parents over their children’s actions. Therefore, it’s important to know what your children are up to and make them aware of what you expect of them, for many reasons.

Keep in mind, there has to be a reasonable age for when a child is responsible. Is a three year old responsible for tripping someone? That could all depend on the incident and circumstances. It always pays to have a good eye on your kids for that reason alone. But generally, a child’s negligence is measured against the reasonable expectation for their age.

Some protection for your personal liability may be connected to some homeowner and renter’s insurance policies, and could be helpful for you in some cases.

As for personal injury lawsuits on behalf of children, many times a parent receives the award for their children if it is under a certain amount. If over a certain amount, the courts will work on a reasonable way to manage the funds or hold them for when the child becomes an adult. This is discussed in-depth in the Florida Statutes.

Another law to consider in Florida is the Safe Storage of Firearms requirement. This is meant to give accountability to parents who don’t safely store firearms.

Attorney Christopher D. Smith, Sr. is designated a Board Certified Consumer Bankruptcy Lawyer by the American Board of Certification.  SmithLaw is located in Lakewood Ranch, Florida.  Attorney Smith concentrates on bankruptcy, civil litigation, probate, family law, estate planning, real estate, and elder exploitation cases in the Sarasota and Bradenton area.  Call 941-202-2222 to learn more.  SmithLaw offers free consultations in certain areas, including consumer bankruptcy, probate, and personal injury matters.

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