If a child causes an accident, and you’re injured as a result, can you sue them (or their parents) for negligence? That largely depends on how old they are. Anyone who has spent time around children probably realizes that kids often don’t understand the consequences of their actions. That’s part of growing up—but when it causes you severe injury, most people are unlikely to feel so generous.
Children, Age and Negligence Lawsuits
Ohio’s courts determine responsibility based on the child’s age. If the child is under seven years old, they are legally considered incapable of negligence. They simply do not have the experience or cognitive development to understand the consequences of their actions. The 1967 Ohio Supreme Court Holbrock case declared that children under seven are incapable of realizing whether their actions can harm others. That means you can’t sue your six-year-old nephew for leaving their LEGOs out on the slippery kitchen tile—even if you broke your arm when falling. This ruling has been upheld in the years since.
Children between seven and 14 years old are presumed incapable of negligence. A legal presumption is akin to giving someone the benefit of the doubt, unless there’s evidence to the contrary. This is called a “rebuttable presumption.” If the opposing party can demonstrate that the minor is mature enough to understand consequences, has the ability to avoid danger and can make good judgments, the presumption is disproven. Therefore, it is possible to hold a child of those ages liable.
Finally, children over 14 are considered capable of negligence—but whether they were is considered a question for the jury.
When you file a negligence lawsuit against someone—minor or adult—you’ll need to prove a few key elements. First, the person had a duty of care toward you. Second, they must have violated that duty. Next, their breach of duty directly caused your accident. Finally, you have suffered injuries as a result.
A careless six-year-old leaving LEGOs out on the floor wouldn’t rise to these standards, since they can’t appreciate the consequences of their actions. However, if your nephew were 15 and they deliberately put LEGOs out, hoping to film a “prank” for TikTok, that would be another story entirely.
In the end, a child can sometimes be held liable for negligence—but you’ll need to talk to a personal injury lawyer about the likelihood of succeeding.
Talk to an Ohio Personal Injury Lawyer Today
If you were injured in an accident, we can work to hold the responsible parties liable—even if they’re under 18. I’ll Make Them Pay!® Call me today at 877.614.9524 for a consultation, and we’ll discuss whether you have a strong case.