Who is Liable if Minors Get Hurt?
May 7, 2021
Each year, accidents injure thousands of children seriously enough to require a visit to the hospital emergency room. Studies indicate that the majority of pediatric personal injuries are due to falls or being struck by objects. Fortunately, most children are treated and released because their injuries are minor. Others suffer serious complications or lasting disability, often from no fault of their own. If a child is seriously injured on someone else’s property, the parents may have legal basis for filing a premises liability claim to pay for damages. However, claims involving minors can be complicated. An experienced premises liability lawyer will be able to represent injured minors and can explain options for pursuing legal action.
How is Premises Liability Determined?
Property owners are not automatically liable for injuries that happen on their premises. Accidents sometimes happen because of a person’s own carelessness. To prevail in a typical premises liability lawsuit, the injured party must first be able to prove that a dangerous or unsafe condition existed on the property and that the owner should have known about the condition and failed to fix it or warn others about its existence. Injured parties must then be able to show that this dangerous condition caused an injury that resulted in actual damages, such as medical bills, lost wages, or pain and suffering.
However, when minors are injured, property owners may be exposed to additional liability, particularly if the owner agreed, either directly or implicitly, to supervise the minor.
Under the theory of negligent supervision, an adult who is supervising a minor owes a duty of care. The person may be held liable if a failure to meet that duty of care directly resulted in injuries to the minor. Although some defendants may attempt to argue that the minor should have known enough to avoid being injured, most courts assume that children are curious and not fully aware of risks that may be present. The younger the child, the less aware they are of the risks and consequences of injury.
What are Pennsylvania’s Laws Governing Injury to Minors?
The laws in Pennsylvania governing premises liability for injury to minors include but are not limited to the following categories of rules:
- Modified comparative negligence
- Attractive nuisance
- Statute of limitations
Pennsylvania’s modified comparative negligence rule states that damages awarded in a personal injury case may be reduced by an amount equal to the percentage of fault born by the victim. For example, if a person gets hurt by ignoring a warning sign or by trespassing on someone else’s property, they may bear some fault for their injury.
However, Pennsylvania’s attractive nuisance law makes an exception to that rule for trespassing children.
Property owners may be liable for injuries to children if there is a structure or other artificial condition that is known to attract children but poses a significant risk to them. In the past, Pennsylvania courts have considered swimming pools, trampolines, playgrounds and towers attractive nuisances.
Usually, courts do not consider school playgrounds, as an attractive nuisance. Public schools are typically immune from personal injury lawsuits that happen on their grounds outside of school hours, especially if the school gates the playground. Additionally, the law views children on sports teams as responsible for assuming that there is a certain amount of risk involved in athletic activities. For example, it is highly unlikely that a high school athlete injured in a football game would have legal grounds for a personal injury claim, unless the injury was caused by a risk not normally associated with the sport.
In other types of circumstances involving a child suffering injury on someone else’s property, there are strict time limits during which you must file a claim. These time limits are one reason why it is so important for injured persons to contact a qualified attorney as soon as possible after an accident
How can Children Recover Damages for Injuries?
Children have the same legal rights to seek recovery for damages as adults. These damages may include payment for pain and suffering as well as medical bills and loss of future income or quality of life. However, since minors are not in a good position to negotiate with insurers or lawyers, parents have the right to hire a lawyer to negotiate on behalf of the child. The process may involve additional paperwork to get approval from a judge but a qualified lawyer is well equipped to handle this task.
How Has Galfand Berger LLP Advocated for Injured Minors?
The premises liability lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP have advocated for injured minors in a number of significant cases, including the following:
- Nine-year-old boy blinded in ATV accident. The ATV was owned by a man who used the vehicle in connection with his two businesses, a shooting preserve and an industrial weed control company. Although the ATV owner had signed a written document acknowledging that no one under age 16 should be permitted to use the vehicle, he had previously purchased a helmet for the injured child to use when riding the ATV. The child went for a ride but lost control of the vehicle when it startled a hunting dog that got loose from the shooting preserve. The ATV flipped over and punctured the boy’s left eye socket. Galfand Berger lawyers settled the case for $6 million on behalf of the injured child.
- Fourteen-year-old boy suffers permanent vision damage at paintball facility. When the accident occurred, the boy was standing behind safety netting watching a game on an adjacent field at a private paintball facility. He briefly lifted his safety mask when a stray paintball pellet came through the netting and hit him in the eye. The Galfand Berger LLP legal team investigated the accident and discovered that the safety netting was in poor condition, which created a dangerous condition on the property. Furthermore, the paintball facility failed in their duty of care to provide proper supervision in the form of chaperones or referees to ensure that minors were following proper safety procedures during the games. Galfand Berger LLP obtained a $500,000 settlement prior to litigation on behalf of the injured child.
- Fifteen-year-old boy suffers toe amputation using lawnmower. The premises owner was the father of the boy’s friend. The two boys were told to mow the lawn and do other chores while the premises owner was away. Galfand Berger lawyers demonstrated that the premises owner was negligent because he failed to instruct and supervise minors after asking them to do chores requiring the use of power equipment. The injured boy obtained a $250,000 settlement.
Every accident has its own set of unique circumstances. Premises liability cases can be complicated for a number of reasons, including if the property owner leases the property, and if defective or unsafe devices or products contributed to the injury. In these situations, an injury victim may hold multiple parties liable for injuries sustained in an accident. The legal team at Galfand Berger LLP has many years of experience investigating accidents thoroughly to determine all contributing factors and assigning fault to negligent parties.
Philadelphia Premises Liability Lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP Advocate for Minors Injured on Someone Else’s Property
Injury victims may hold property owners liable for dangerous conditions on their premises. Additional considerations may apply to minors who are hurt on someone else’s property. If your child suffers an injury while they are not under your care, contact the Philadelphia premises liability lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP to find out if you should file a personal injury claim. We will review your case and answer any questions you may have. To schedule a free and confidential consultation, call us at 800-222-USWA (8792) or contact us online. From our offices in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, Pennsylvania, we proudly serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey, including Allentown and Harrisburg.