Minors and Personal Injury Lawsuits
A woman recently made national news for suing her minor nephew for injuries she received when he knocked her down while trying to give her a hug. In the lawsuit, the woman sought compensation for her injuries specifically from the minor child, but said she did so in order to collect from his parents’ homeowner’s insurance. This lawsuit and others like it raise questions: what does it mean to sue a minor? What good would it do to sue a minor for money when minors typically do not have assets or income? And conversely, does a minor have a right to sue?
Injured by a Minor
If someone is injured as a result of the negligent or wrongful act of a minor child, depending upon the specific circumstances, the child’s parents may be held legally responsible and they are named as the defendants in the lawsuit. To support the claim for damages, one would have to prove that the parents failed to supervise or control their child, and that the injury caused by the child’s conduct was reasonably foreseeable. While a minor may lack assets at the time a judgment is entered against him or her, in Florida the judgment lasts for 20 years, allowing for collection after the minor reaches the age of maturity and hopefully gets the means to pay it.
Injuries To Minors And Waivers Of Liability
Just as lawsuits can be brought against the parents of a minor child, a minor, through his or her parent(s) or legal guardian, may sue for injuries the child sustains as a result of someone else’s wrongful act. If a minor’s personal injury claim results in a settlement, depending upon the amount of the settlement offer, court approval of the settlement may be required. The court may also require the appointment of a guardian ad litem to ensure that the minor’s interests are protected.
While Florida law allows parents to waive a minor’s ability to sue for personal injury, there are certain limitations to what rights the parents can waive. If a parent or guardian waives a minor’s right to sue, the minor cannot later sue a party that caused him or her injuries to recover for damages. For example, parents can waive a child’s right to sue a commercial activity provider if a child is participating in an activity (such as a sporting event, amusement ride, etc.) that has natural foreseeable risks, but cannot waive the child’s right to sue if the child sustains injuries during the activity due to a risk that was not inherent in the activity. Florida law requires any waivers signed by parents to contain very specific language outlined in Florida Statute Section 744.301 that details the rights the parent is waiving by signing the release.
It is also important to note that a minor child who is not emancipated from his or her parents generally cannot sue a parent for personal injuries that are caused due to the parent’s negligence during the cause of a parent-child relationship. However, there are certain instances in which a child may sue, including for intentional acts such as child abuse.
Contact a Clearwater Personal Injury Attorney
If you were injured due to the actions of a minor, or you are the parent of an injured minor, contact an experienced personal injury attorney for a consultation. We can advise you on how to proceed with your claim to ensure you receive compensation for your child’s injuries. Contact the experienced Clearwater personal injury attorneys at Roman & Roman, P.A.