It’s not uncommon for someone injured in an accident due to someone else’s negligence to pursue a lawsuit against them. This is often to receive fair compensation for injuries and other factors that have since significantly impacted their lives. Typically, this process happens between two adults. But can you sue a minor for personal injury?
While it’s legal to do so, there are a few factors you need to consider before you bring a lawsuit against someone underage. Like any other legal matter, it is best to seek the advice of a seasoned attorney before making any final decisions. The statutes around suing a minor for personal injury are more extensive than suing an adult. It will likely have to be proven that the child acted with intent or an egregious level of recklessness, which can be difficult. This post will review the parameters around suing a minor and what happens if a minor chooses to sue someone themselves.
Who is Considered a Minor?
You’re considered a minor in Canada until you are 18 years old. Minors can be the plaintiff in lawsuits, but the case details dictate whether they can act on their own behalf. For example, a minor with a claim under $500 may bring a case in small claims court but needs a guardian to represent them if the damages exceed this threshold.
Why Would Someone Bring a Lawsuit Against a Child?
While it’s hard to fathom bringing a lawsuit against a minor, there are some instances where it may be appropriate. For example, if a child intentionally damaged your property, you might sue them for the cost of repairs. Other occurrences of children being liable for injuries include performing pranks that are dangerous for themselves and those around them. Often, this can result in their intended victim becoming seriously hurt and needing medical care.
Determining Liability and Fault
When dealing with minors, the lines regarding who’s liable for an incident can be blurred. Depending on the minor’s age, the courts could believe the parents have more control over their actions or that the child has more agency of their own. For example, if a minor is driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol and causes an accident, their parents likely won’t be found liable. However, if the minor is prepubescent and found guilty of damaging another person’s property, the parents might share some liability.
The Responsibility of Parents and Guardians
According to Ontario’s Parental Responsibility Act of 2000, parents and legal guardians may be sued for their children’s actions. However, there is a considerable burden of proof placed on the plaintiff to establish neglectful parenting when suing those responsible for the minor. Parents and legal guardians that show they’ve taken reasonable measures to keep their children from exhibiting destructive or reckless behaviour are often exonerated when the child is found liable in a personal injury case.
Intent is also key. A plaintiff must prove that the child’s actions were deliberate and meant to cause harm before they may target the parents with litigation.
Potential Difficulties with Cases Involving Minors
While yes, you can sue a minor for personal injury, it’s not very common to do so. There are many reasons for this. Children sometimes have less control over their actions due to an inability to consider how they impact others in the future. It can also be challenging to prove that a child purposefully harmed another person.
Many potential plaintiffs have ethical and moral concerns over bringing a lawsuit against a minor. The most common strategy is determining if the parents are liable first rather than attempting to sue the child.
An Inability to Pay Fair Compensation
Most children don’t own any assets they could use to pay out a judgment against them. That means you could sue a minor successfully but never recover compensation from them. This makes the process a potential waste of time and money when considering court costs and other legal fees needed to bring the claim forward.
Steps to Take if Your Child is Being Sued
If your child is the subject of a lawsuit, you should first speak with an attorney to prepare a defence. Our team at Bergeron Clifford is capable of helping with this. You can discuss the potential outcomes of the case and whether you could also be held liable for your child’s actions. One thing to note is that your child cannot represent themself in court for claims over $500, so you’ll likely need to act as their litigation guardian.
You have the authority to hire an attorney on your child’s behalf, discuss settlement options, or defend your child in court when they are being sued. When exploring your legal defence options, you may be able to work with the other party’s legal team to come to a resolution before a court even hears the issue.
How to Sue Someone on Your Child’s Behalf
Certain injuries can change the course of a child’s life forever. For example, if your child suffers a spinal injury due to someone else’s negligence, they may suffer from decreased motor function and experience ongoing pain. It could even impact how their bones grow into adulthood.
If your child is injured in an accident, they can’t file a lawsuit on their own. You need to act on their behalf by hiring a personal injury lawyer, like our team at Bergeron Clifford, to seek fair compensation for medical bills, rehabilitative therapy and pain and suffering. When bringing a lawsuit against someone for injuring your child, you may also be able to argue that you’re owed additional compensation for costs related to your child’s medical care and recovery.
Another consideration that could be reviewed is the potential for lost income as an adult. There is a possibility that your child won’t be able to work in certain professions due to their injuries, which would impact them over a much longer period of time than an adult.
Hire an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer
At Bergeron Clifford, our sole focus is personal injury law. If you or a loved one has been hurt in an accident, we can help you determine the most appropriate course of legal action. Our process begins with a free consultation where we can gather the information we need to assess the value of each case.
Contact us today to learn more about how we can help.