What happens if your injuries are caused by the actions of a child – do the same rules of negligence apply as to injuries caused by an adult? Therese Classon, personal injury solicitor at WBW Solicitors in Newton Abbot, explains.
If you suffer a personal injury due to the actions of another adult, you are perfectly entitled to want to seek some sort of redress – often in the form of a claim for compensation.
To successfully bring such a compensation claim, you need to prove the person responsible for your injuries was negligent. This requires being able to show they owed you a duty of care, that they breached this duty of care and that your injuries were a result of this breach.
The test for assessing negligence for a child was laid out in Mullin v Richards (1998). The court ruled that where a child is alleged to be in breach of a duty of care, the test is still objective, but must be based upon the standard reasonably to be expected of a child of that age, and not to the standard of a reasonable adult.
In this case, a 15-year-old was found not to be liable for blinding another teenager in a play-fight. The court ruled that a reasonable 15-year-old would not have foreseen any injury arising from the game, and so would not have taken any extra steps to protect the claimant from harm. Accordingly, the defendant acted as a reasonable child would, and was not in breach.
The younger the child is, the less likely they are to be found to be negligent. Very young children will rarely be treated as negligent because they are too young to appreciate the consequences of their actions.
Even if it can be shown that an older child was negligent, it will often not be worth pursuing a compensation claim as the child is unlikely to have any money to pay the compensation.
It may be possible to make a child found to be negligent liable to pay compensation in the following scenarios:
- if the child is 10 years or over, and has been convicted of a crime in England and Wales, a compensation order could be made in respect of an injury, loss or damage that resulted from the offence;
- where the child has their own assets and so can afford to pay compensation;
- where a child is found liable, the judgment can be enforced six years later, by which time the child may become able to pay (because, for example, they have become an adult and are earning their own money); and
- where the child lives with their parents, the home’s building and contents insurance may cover liability for paying compensation for negligent acts by a household member, including children.
Many believe a parent is liable if their child’s actions caused injury to someone else; however, this is not always so. A parent has a duty to exercise reasonable control over their child: the younger the child is, the greater the level of control would usually be expected. As long as a parent exercises reasonable control, they may have no responsibility for the child’s actions.
Schools, however, may be liable for injuries caused to a child by another child, if the level of supervision is considered to be inadequate. In Palmer, for example, a school was held liable for an injury caused to one pupil by a stone thrown by another child during a break period.
This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.