Claims Against Children
Children have the independent ability to walk out into the middle of a busy street and cause accidents to happen as a result. Those accidents can impact on drivers of vehicle, cyclists and pedestrians. So, what liability do the children or their parents have?
Solicitors often assume that a parent is liable for the conduct of a child when a child is involved in or causes an accident. A parent is under a duty to exercise reasonable control over their children. The younger the child the greater level of control that would normally be expected. If the child is on an errand for a parent then the parent may also be liable for their conduct. Provided the parent exercises reasonable control and the child is not acting as their "servant or agent" then the parent has no responsibility for the child's actions.
A child is regarded as a vulnerable road user. Other road users are under a higher duty of care when they see children to anticipate that they may act irrationally or in an unsafe manner because of their age. The ordinary tests of responsibility for an accident do not apply as a result. There is an automatic shifting of the duty to take care towards the adult. This means that liability is not as clear cut as most lawyers think either.
Children under the age of 10 are unlikely to have any responsibility if an accident occurs. Children between the ages of 10 and 14 are regarded as more responsible, whereas children over the age of 14 are usually treated the same as adults.
The courts have previously recognised "red flag" instances where drivers should be taking particular care. Obvious examples would be near a school, near an ice cream van or in residential areas. Drivers often forget that the speed limit is the legally recognised maximum safe speed limit, and does not automatically mean it is safe to travel at that speed.
There is slight solace in the fact that most children are covered under their parent's house insurance policy against any claim. What is important is specialist advice at an early stage. This is particularly because you should not be issuing a claim against a child without them having a "litigation friend" (usually a parent) appointed on their behalf.
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