For a Child in an Accident

What can happen to a child in a traffic accident

For a Child in an Accident

Inside the car, the child is the weakest passenger, is the smallest and the most fragile. Therefore, in a traffic accident you need a retention system greater than that of an adult.

At we tell you what can happen to a child in the event of a car accident and why it is so important that they travel with an approved seat.

The importance of child restraint chairs in cars

For some years now, with some great professionals and colleagues, we began a Road Safety Conference, aimed at parents of schools, “The Safety of your children: your responsibility”. Of all the multidisciplinary days that are organized, you always learn things from the hands of other colleagues.

In this case it was a phrase that perfectly summarized all the deployment and the objectives of this event: “It is better to lose a minute in life, than life in a minute“.

A strong and loaded phrase of reason, which came from the mouth of my friend Eva María González Fernández (Local Police in Vélez Málaga and very involved in training in Child Road Safety for many years), and that today continues to resonate in the inside of my head.

The legislation considers mandatory the use of Child Retention Systems (SRI) by the roads and is forceful in this respect.

And this is not a whim of the leaders; It is based simply on laws of classical physics, which are responsible for injuries in high-energy accidents.

And it is that, a child can suffer very serious injuries and even death in case of traffic accident.

What happens in a traffic accident

Newton's first law of motion tells us that a body that is at rest will remain at rest, and that a moving body will continue to move, unless an external force acts on it.

This justifies the sudden and unexpected projection or acceleration of a vehicle when it is hit by another, or the simple stopping of a vehicle when braking (acts the friction force of the braking system and the friction of the asphalt against the wheels)

In a high-energy accident, three consecutive injuries always occur:

  1. The impact of the car against an obstacle that stops it more or less abruptly.
  2. The impact of the occupants against the structures of the vehicle.
  3. The impact of the organs inside the cavities that house them. In these moments a quantity of energy is produced, which is exchanged in different directions and which conditions the harmful effect on the different affected organs; always depending on its density and the contact surface that receives the impact.

This justifies the damage that occurs in the different organs after the sudden cessation of a movement by the exchange of forces. The movement of the vehicle, after a sudden cessation, does not disappear, but is transmitted with the same intensity to our anatomy.

Let's take a graphic example to better understand all the above-mentioned on the importance of speed in these cases:

  • A sudden stop at 50 km / h could be equivalent to a free fall from 9 meters.
  • A sudden stop at 100 km / h could be equivalent to a free fall from 39 meters.

Therefore, in any traffic accident, returning to what was initially explained, there are three energy exchanges in a traffic accident:

  1. More or less abrupt deceleration of the vehicle until it stops after impact.
  2. In a second time, the projection of occupants in the direction of the march until their arrest, against the structures of the vehicle
  3. And in the third time, a sudden deceleration of the organs of the occupants until their arrest, against the anatomical structures that shelter and sustain them.

What injuries can a child have in a traffic accident

With all the data exposed so far, we can verify that it is not necessary to develop high speeds to generate serious injuries in an occupant. Much more consideration must be had with young children as travelers:

  • Children have different anatomical characteristics than adults, starting with the fragility of their organs and other anatomical structures. The size of the head and its weight, in relation to the rest of the body, is proportionally greater than that of adults. This is why most of the injuries can happen in the head and neck until, more or less, four years of age
  • Certain organs, such as the liver, are more bulky and less protected than in adulthood. After 4 years, the lesions are more frequent at the abdominal level.

All the advances in active and passive safety that have been implemented in series vehicles throughout these years (head restraints, safety belts, airbags, reinforcement of living quarters, braking systems, etc.), among which they include the SRI (infantile restraint systems), they are directed to dissipate the energy that is generated in the impacts and, therefore, to minimize the possibility of injuries.

In case of injuries, they will always act to reduce their severity. Without these devices the consequences would be much worse. Hence the importance of following the instructions of the manufacturers on their installation, use and maintenance.

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What to do if your child has an accident

For a Child in an Accident

Most young children have some injuries and accidents. Most will be minor, but it's sensible to know what to do if the accident or injury is more serious.

Start by learning some basic first aid, or revise what you already know. St John Ambulance, British Red Cross and your local NHS Ambulance Service run first aid courses.

Your health visitor or local children's centre may also run courses.

It can be difficult to know when to call an ambulance and when to take your child to the accident and emergency department (A&E).

Use the following as a guide: 

Call an ambulance if your child:

  • stops breathing
  • is struggling for breath (for example, you may notice them breathing fast, panting, becoming very wheezy, or see the muscles just under their ribcage sucking in when they breathe in)
  • is unconscious or seems unaware of what's going on
  • has a cut that won't stop bleeding or is gaping open
  • won't wake up
  • has a fit for the first time, even if they seem to recover

Take your child to A&E if they:

  • have a fever and are still sluggish, despite having paracetamol or ibuprofen
  • have severe tummy (abdominal) pain
  • have a leg or arm injury and can't use the limb
  • have swallowed a poison or tablets

If you're worried about your child and aren't sure if they need medical help, call NHS 111.

If you're unsure whether you should move your child, make sure they're warm and call an ambulance.

If your child has something lodged firmly in their nose or ear, leave it where it is. You may push it further in if you try to remove it.

Take your child to the nearest A&E department or minor injuries unit.

If their nose is blocked, show your child how to breathe through their mouth.

If your child has a button battery lodged in their nose or ear, they should be seen as a matter of urgency.

If there's a lot of bleeding, press firmly on the wound with a clean cloth, such as a tea towel or flannel. Use your fingers if you don't have a clean cloth.

If there's an object embedded in the wound, a piece of glass, press around the edges of the object, rather than directly on it.

Press until the bleeding stops. This may take 10 minutes or more. Don't tie anything around the injury so tightly that it stops the circulation.

If possible, raise the injured limb. This will help to stop the bleeding. Don't do it if you think the limb might be broken.

If you can find a clean dressing, cover the wound. If blood soaks through the pad or dressing, leave it there and put another pad or dressing over the top.

It's very unusual for a wound to bleed so much that there's serious blood loss.

An ambulance isn't usually needed, but if the cut keeps bleeding or there's a gap between the edges of the wound, go to A&E or a minor injuries unit.

If you think there may be something in the cut, such as a piece of glass, go to A&E.

If your child's immunisations aren't up-to-date, ask your GP or the hospital whether they should have a tetanus jab.

Immediately put the burn or scald under cold running water to reduce the heat in the skin. Don't do this for longer than 10 minutes, as babies and toddlers can get too cold.

If there's no running water, immerse the burn or scald in cold water or use any other cool fluid, such as milk or another cold drink.

Use something clean and non-fluffy, a cotton pillowcase, linen tea towel or clingfilm, to cover the burn or scald. This will reduce the risk of infection.

If your child's clothes are stuck to the skin, don't try to take them off.

Don't put butter, toothpaste, oil or ointment on a burn or scald, as it'll have to be cleaned off before the burn or scald can be treated.

Depending on the severity of the burn or scald, see your GP or go to a minor injuries unit or A&E.

Blisters will burst naturally. The raw area underneath them needs a protective dressing. Ask your pharmacist or practice nurse for advice.

If you think your child has swallowed pills or medicines:

  • Unless you're absolutely sure what they are, spend a minute or two looking for the missing pills.
  • If you still think your child has swallowed something, take them straight away to your GP or A&E, whichever is quickest.
  • Take the full set of tablets with you so the doctors can check the labelling and calculate how much your child may have taken.
  • Keep a close eye on your child and be prepared to follow the resuscitation sequence.
  • If possible, write down the name of whatever you think your child has swallowed so you can tell the doctor.
  • Don't give your child salt and water or do anything else to make them sick.
  • Try to keep your child calm and don't encourage them to walk around to keep awake. 

If you think your child has swallowed household or garden chemicals:

  • Calm your child down as much as you can (this will be easier if you stay calm yourself).
  • Act quickly to get your child to A&E.
  • If possible, write down the name of whatever you think your child has swallowed so you can tell the doctor.
  • If your child is in pain or there's any staining, soreness or blistering around their mouth, they have probably swallowed something corrosive. Give them milk or water to sip to ease the burning and get them to hospital quickly.

Button batteries are small round, silver batteries found in lots of electrical toys and devices.

If your child swallows a button battery or you think they may have swallowed one, take them to A&E straight away.

As well as being a choking hazard, button batteries can cause internal burns, internal bleeding, and in some cases, even deaths.

They can also cause burns if they're lodged in a child's nose or ear.

The Child Accident Prevention Trust website has more advice about button batteries.

Find out how to help a choking child

If your child looks pale or feels unwell after an accident, lie them down. Keep them covered up and warm, but not too hot.

If your child feels faint, get them to keep their head down or, ideally, lie down. The faint feeling should wear off in a minute or two.

If your child has a fit, they may suddenly turn blue and become rigid, with staring eyes.

Sometimes their eyes will roll and their limbs will twitch and jerk, or they may suddenly go floppy.

The following suggestions will help you deal with the fit:

  • Keep calm.
  • Don't try to hold them down.
  • Create a safe space around them.
  • Don't put anything in their mouth. If you think they're choking on food or an object, look in their mouth and try to remove it.
  • Lie your child on their side to make sure they don't choke.
  • Remove your child's clothing and any coverings, and make sure they're cool, but not chilly.
  • Most fits will stop within 3 minutes. When it's over, reassure your child, make them comfortable and call a doctor.
  • If the fit hasn't stopped within 5 minutes, call 999. If it stops but it was your child's first fit, take them to the nearest A&E department to be checked over.
  • Even if it's not the first time and your child recovers quickly, let your GP know that your child has had a fit.

Although fits may look alarming, they're common in children under the age of 3.

There are other reasons why children have fits, but a high temperature is the most common trigger. 

Read more about treating a high temperature in children.

Fever fits, also known as febrile convulsions, become increasingly less common after the age of 3 and are almost unknown after the age of 5. They aren't usually connected with epilepsy. 

Find out more about febrile convulsions

Always turn off the power before approaching your child.

If this isn't possible, push the child away from the source of the electricity with a wooden or plastic object, such as a broom handle.

Try tapping their feet or stroking their neck and shouting “hello” or “wake up”.

If you get no response from your child, you must follow the resuscitation sequence.

If you think your child's neck or spine may be injured, call an ambulance. Don't move them. Unnecessary movement could cause paralysis.

A bone in your child's leg or arm may be broken if they have pain and swelling, and the limb seems to be lying at a strange angle.

If you can't easily move your child without causing pain, call an ambulance.

If you have to move your child, be very gentle. Put 1 hand above the injury and the other below it to steady and support it (use blankets or clothing if necessary). Comfort your child and take them to hospital.

If you think your child is in pain, give them painkillers, even if you're going to A&E. Follow the dosage instructions on the label.

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Accidents to children in the home

For a Child in an Accident

  1. All of Your.MD’s Health A-Z articles are reviewed by certified doctors

Accidental injuries are the most common cause of death in children over one year of age.

Children under five are most at risk from an injury in the home, with boys more ly to be injured than girls.

Burns and scalds are common injuries in young children. Many young children also end up at hospital after swallowing objects or following a suspected poisoning.

Older children are more ly to experience fractures, such as a broken arm or wrist.

Many accidents and deaths that occur in the home are avoidable. By identifying and understanding the potential risks and taking some basic safety measures, it's possible to keep your children safe.

Read more about preventing accidents and injuries in the home.

When should I take my child to hospital?

Call for an ambulance if your child:

  • stops breathing
  • is struggling to breathe – for example, if the area under their ribcage is 'sucked in'
  • is unconscious or seems unaware of what's going on
  • won’t wake up
  • has a fit for the first time, even if they seem to recover

Take your child to your nearest accident and emergency (A&E) department if they:

  • have a fever and they're lethargic (lacking in energy), despite having paracetamol or ibuprofen
  • are having difficulty breathing (breathing fast, panting or they're very wheezy)
  • have severe abdominal pain
  • have a cut that won't stop bleeding or is gaping open
  • have a leg or arm injury and they're unable to use the limb
  • have swallowed poison or tablets

After an accident such as a fall from height, if you’re not sure whether you should move your child, make sure they’re warm and then request an ambulance.

Read more about [what to do if your child has an accident].

What causes injuries in the home?

Most non-fatal accidents are caused by falls from height, with most deaths occurring as a result of fire.

A child can be injured anywhere in or around the home, but the most common place for accidents to occur is in the living or dining room. The most serious accidents occur in the kitchen and on the stairs.

There are potential hazards in every home, such as hot water, household chemicals, fireplaces and sharp objects. The design of some homes, such as those with balconies and open staircases, can also contribute to accidents.

Young children are unable to assess the risks that these things pose. Their perception of the environment around them is often limited and their lack of experience and development, such as poor co-ordination and balance, can result in them being injured.

When do accidents happen?

Accidents can occur at any time of the day, but they're more ly to occur in the late afternoon and early evening. Most children have accidents during the summer, at weekends and during school holidays.

There are a number of factors that can contribute to an injury in the home, including:

  • distraction and poor supervision
  • changes to the child's usual routine or being in a hurry
  • poor housing and overcrowded conditions (childhood accidents are closely linked to social deprivation)
  • being unfamiliar with surroundings, such as when on holiday or when visiting friends or relatives

There are several ways to help prevent injuries to children in the home, including supervising your child, being aware of the risks, creating a safe environment and using safety equipment.

Your child’s development

The types of childhood injuries that occur in the home are often linked to a child's age and level of development. It can sometimes be difficult for parents to keep up with their child’s capabilities.

From an early age, babies are able to wriggle, grasp and roll over. Between 6-12 months old, they may be able to stand, sit, crawl and put things in their mouth.

As children get older, they're able to walk and move about, reach things that are higher up, climb and find hidden objects. With their new-found sense of freedom and movement, toddlers can move quickly and accidents can happen in a matter of seconds.

Below are some of the most common types of injuries that happen to babies and young children, and advice about how you can prevent them.


Falls are the most common type of accident in the home, accounting for 44% of all childhood injuries.

For babies, the biggest danger is rolling off the edge of a table, bed or sofa. Toddlers quickly learn how to climb and explore and it's very easy for them to fall off a piece of furniture, down stairs or a window or balcony.

It's ly that young children will fall over and get knocks and bruises while learning to walk, but serious injuries can be avoided. Below are some tips to prevent falls in the home.

  • Make sure your baby cannot roll off the changing surface.
  • Don't put a bouncing cradle or similar piece of equipment on a table or worktop – they can easily bounce off the edge.
  • Fit restrictors to upstairs windows so they cannot be opened more than 10cm.
  • Keep chairs and other climbing objects away from windows and balconies.
  • Fit safety gates approved by safety standards at the top and bottom of stairs.
  • Don't leave anything on the stairs that might cause someone to fall over, and ensure there is enough light on the stairs.
  • Check there is no room for a child to crawl through any banisters at the top of the stairs. Board them up if there's a risk of your child falling through them or getting stuck.
  • Keep balcony doors locked to prevent your child from going on to it alone – if it has railings your child could climb through, board them up or fit wire netting as a guard.
  • Secure any furniture and kitchen appliances to the wallif there's a risk they could be pulled over.

Suffocating and choking

Babies and young children can easily swallow, inhale or choke on small items such as marbles, buttons, peanuts and small toys. The steps below can help prevent this happening.

  • Keep small objects the reach of small children.
  • Choose toys designed for the age of your baby or child – encourage older children to keep their toys away from your baby.
  • Beware of clothing with cords, dummies on necklace cords and bag straps – they can easily get caught and pull tightly on the neck.
  • Lay your baby on their back in a cot to sleep – don't let babies sleep in an adult bed or on the sofa and don't use pillows as they can suffocate.
  • Keep plastic bags away from young children – they can pull these over their heads and suffocate.
  • Nappy sacks, used to dispose of soiled nappies, can also pose a risk – keep them the reach of babies and young children.
  • Curtain and blind pull cords should be kept short and reach of children.
  • Keep animals, particularly cats, your bedrooms – if they jump into cots or beds they could suffocate your child. Attach a net over prams if necessary.


Domestic fires pose a significant risk to children. Children playing with matches and lighters frequently start house fires. The youngest children often hide from the danger and may not be found until it's too late.

The following points are important safety precautions to prevent a fire starting while you sleep and ensure you and your child don't breathe in poisonous smoke.

  • Fit smoke alarms on every level of your home.
  • Test smoke alarms regularly and change the batteries every year. Even better, get alarms that have 10-year batteries or are wired into the mains or plug into light sockets.
  • At night, switch off electrical items before you go to bed and close all doors to contain a potential fire.
  • Work out an escape plan for your family and tell your children what to do in case of a fire. Practise the plan regularly.
  • Always use a fireguard on an open fireplace and make sure it's attached to the wall. Don't lean or hang anything from it.
  • Keep matches and lighters reach of children.
  • Extinguish and dispose of cigarettes carefully,particularly at night.

Burns and scalds

Hot drinks cause most burns and scalds to children under the age of five. A child’s skin is far more sensitive than an adult’s, and hot water can scald for up to 15 minutes after it has boiled. Hot bath water is the biggest cause of severe and fatal scalding injuries in young children.

Children can also get burns from open fires, cookers, irons, hair straighteners and tongs, cigarettes, matches, lighters and other hot surfaces.

The following advice can help prevent these accidents occurring.

  • Switch off heated appliances immediately after use and, if possible, place them reach – this includes irons, hair straighteners and curling tongs. Keep the cord safely reach as well.
  • Always place hot drinks children's reach. Keep them away from the edges of tables and surfaces, and don’t use tablecloths that children can pull at.
  • Don't drink anything hot with a child on your lap or in your arms.
  • Use a cordless kettle or one with a coiled lead that can be kept short.
  • Use the back rings on the cooker whenever possible and turn saucepan handles away from the edge.
  • If possible, keep young children the kitchen.
  • Before bathing your baby or child, check the water is not too hot – a good test is to put your elbow in first. When filling the bath, run the cold water first before adding hot water. As your child gets older, teach them to test the water first too.


Most poisoning injuries involve medicines, household products and cosmetics.

The points below will help prevent your child being poisoned.

  • Keep anything that may be poisonous reach, preferably in a locked cupboard – this includes all medicines and pills, household cleaners and garden products.
  • Use containers with child-resistant tops – be aware that by three years of age, many children are able to open child-resistant tops, although it may take them a little longer.
  • Keep all dangerous chemicals in their original containers – for example, don't store weedkiller in an old drinks bottle because a young child may mistake it for something safe to drink.
  • Dispose of unwanted medicines and chemicals carefully.
  • Discourage your children from eating any plants or fungi when outside – some are poisonous and can be fatal. Avoid buying plants with poisonous leaves or berries.

Glass-related injuries

Glass can cause serious cuts. Many children end up in hospital every year because of injuries caused by glass around the home. Many are also injured when glasses and bottles break.

  • Use safety glass at a low level, such as in doors and windows. Safety glass is glass that's toughened and laminated and passes specially designed impact tests. Normal glass shatters more easily.
  • Make existing glass safe by applying a shatter-resistant film.
  • When buying furniture that incorporates glass, make sure it's safety approved.
  • Always dispose of broken glass quickly and safely – wrap it in newspaper before throwing it in the bin.
  • If you own a greenhouse or cold frame (a structure to protect plants from the winter cold), make sure it has safety glazing or is fenced off from children.
  • Don't let a toddler hold anything made of glass or anything sharp – such as scissors and sharp pencils.


Children can drown in a few centimetres of water. They should be supervised at all times when near water. Make sure you:

  • Never leave a baby or child in the bath unsupervised, not even for a minute – this includes in a bath seat.
  • Don't leave uncovered containers of liquid around the house.
  • Empty paddling pools and store them away when not in use.


Almost all incidents where a child drowns in a garden pond occur after a breakdown in supervision. Follow the advice below to keep your children safe.

  • Preferably, fill in garden ponds when your child is young and before they're mobile. If this isn't possible, cover ponds with a rigid grille or fence them off securely.
  • Be careful when your children visit other gardens that have ponds or lakes nearby.
  • If you decide to keep a garden pond make sure children are supervised closely and constantly while they're in the garden.

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When are Parents Liable for Injuries Caused by Their Children?

For a Child in an Accident

Parental liability is the legal responsibility parents have for the negligent acts of their children. Those acts can be transferred (or imputed) from the child to the parent. The parent then becomes vicariously liable. In other words, the parent acts as a substitute for the consequences of their child’s actions.

In personal injury or assault cases, parents can be held responsible to pay for injuries and property damage caused by their child. A parent’s vicarious liability may also apply to their child’s criminal acts, such as vandalism.

Age Limitations of Parental Liability

Most states have their own statutes setting the maximum ages a parent or legal guardian can be held liable for the acts of their children. This is called the Age of Majority. In 48 50 states, the age of majority is 18 for civil matters and 17 for criminal ones. In civil matters, the following states have exceptions to the age of majority:

  • American Samoa and Puerto Rico = 14 y/o
  • Nebraska and Alabama = 19 y/o
  • Mississippi and Washington D.C. = 21 y/o

Once a child reaches the age of majority, his parents can no longer be held responsible for his actions. This includes responsibility for civil and criminal matters. The lowest age at which a minor’s actions can be imputed to his parents is 10 years old in most states.

In some cases, minors can petition the court to be emancipated from their parents. Emancipation legally frees a child from his or her parents’ authority, and frees the parents from liability for their child’s actions.

Scope of Parental Liability

The circumstances of the child’s actions determine the existence and degree of parental liability. Each case is unique, involving specific negligent or willful acts. In civil matters, the most common negligent acts of minors involve car accidents. Willful acts usually involve assaultive behavior.

In most states, to hold parents liable for injuries caused by their children, a victim must prove the parents’ negligence contributed to their child’s actions. To determine the degree of that contribution, the courts rely on Common Law (previous court decisions), and the “Reasonable and Foreseeable” rule.

  • Reasonable means the parents could, or should have known their child had a tendency to act in a dangerous manner. Other parents in a similar position would have known about the danger.
  • Foreseeable means the parents could, or should have been able to foresee that their child was capable of causing injury. Other parents in a similar position would have seen the possibility for injury.

Example: Foreseeable car accident

Ben is 16 years old, and lives at home with his parents. They recently bought him a used car, which he keeps in the driveway. He received his driver’s license three months ago, and already has two speeding tickets.

He made no effort to hide the tickets from his parents. They also know about the tickets because Ben’s court dates were mailed to their home. They had a stern discussion with Ben about his driving habits, and threatened to take away his car if he got another ticket.

Several days later, they received notice of another ticket, but didn’t follow through on their threat. They spoke with Ben, and gave him one last chance before taking his car away. The following week, Ben was speeding down a local road and crashed into another vehicle, causing extensive property damage and injuring the passengers.

The injured parties sued Ben and his parents. They said the parents should have known about their son’s reckless driving, and should have taken appropriate action to stop him from speeding. They alleged it was foreseeable Ben would eventually cause an accident.

The parents responded by stating they can’t be held liable because they did everything they could to stop their son from speeding. They said they weren’t in the car at the time, and therefore couldn’t foresee he was going to cause a collision.

Legal Arguments

After hearing the evidence, the court decided the parents were liable for Ben’s actions, which caused the car accident and injuries. The court determined the parents were in a position to know their son’s driving habits. He lived in their home and they knew about his tickets, but they still didn’t do the responsible thing as parents and take his car away.

They knew about Ben’s reckless driving, so it was entirely foreseeable to them that he’d eventually cause an accident. There were also no barriers between Ben and his parents, which would have made taking his car away unreasonably difficult.

Example: Unforeseeable assault

Mike was 15 years old, and had a reputation for starting fights with some of his classmates. On more than one occasion, he was warned by the principal to stop his aggressive behavior before he seriously hurt someone. Otherwise, Mike had an excellent scholastic record, and always behaved well at home.

There were no other indicators of Mike’s tendency toward violence. His parents attended the traditional parent-teacher meetings, and at no time did his teachers, or any other school officials, express concern that their son displayed violent behavior.

One day, Mike started a fight. This time he seriously injured another boy by willfully kicking him so hard he broke several of the boy’s ribs.

The injured boy’s parents sued Mike and his parents for their son’s injuries. They said Mike’s parents had every reasonable opportunity to admonish their son, and to take appropriate action to stop him from further aggressive behavior.

They said Mike’s parents should have known about their son’s propensity for violence. As a result, it was entirely foreseeable for them to expect that their son would eventually cause serious injury to another youngster.

Legal Arguments

After hearing the evidence, the court decided Mike’s parents were not liable for his actions. For Mike’s parents to be held vicariously liable for his willful acts, they must have had a reasonable opportunity to know about his violent behavior.

There was no indication of Mike’s behavioral problems at home, and his parents had no reason to expect his behavior was different at school.

In the absence of any indicators at home, Mike’s parents had a right to expect that his teachers or principal would inform them of his aggressive behavior. The school staff wholly failed to do so. As a result, the court found it was unforeseeable for Mike’s parents to know of their son’s violent behavior, therefore, they couldn’t do anything about it.

Find out now with a FREE case review from an attorney…

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Child Bicycle Accident Liability

For a Child in an Accident

Riding bicycles is a fun, healthy pastime for people of all ages, but children confront many unique risks that adult cyclists don't.

On top of their smaller size, potentially rendering them less visible, these riders may lack the good judgment to respond properly in the face of hazards.

When child bike accidents occur, victims' families may have to rely on the law to aid their search for justice.

The Realities of Bicycling Accident Risks

Bike accidents pose a significant risk for children. As noted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 467,000 Americans were injured in bike crashes in 2015.

More than 33 percent of all people who visit the hospital for nonfatal injuries related to bicycle riding are below the age of 20.

Most of the deaths that occur take place in urban zones and locations that aren't intersections.

According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, children should never ride on the street until they are at least 10 years old.

Due to their immaturity, these cyclists lack the decision-making capability to stay safe when they are around hazards motor vehicle traffic.

These guidelines aren't laws, and parents aren't always watching their children closely, so many youthful riders may be at enhanced risk.

Do Helmet Laws Help?

Unfortunately, safety gear isn't always mandatory. For instance, Washington state doesn't prohibit young people from riding without helmets but rather leaves this up to its cities and counties.

In Virginia, many jurisdictions enforce rules that require anyone below the age of 15 to wear a helmet while riding. In Tennessee and Maryland, the mandatory age limit is 16, and it applies to anyone riding on public property, such as roads and sidewalks.

The District of Columbia has a similar age limit.

Helmet laws may not be consistently enforced in every situation, and some kids avoid wearing them altogether. For instance, the CDC found that under half of all minors between 5 and 14 years of age use helmets while riding. It also discovered that helmet use is less frequent among older children. 

Drivers' Greater Duty of Care Around Children

It often falls upon motorists and other adults to proceed with heightened caution and prevent child bike accidents. State and federal agencies suggest a range of helpful actions that might assist drivers in reducing the lihood of tragedies. Drivers should:

  • Refrain from passing riders unless they can maintain a bicycle buffer zone of a minimum of 3 feet between them and the bicycle
  • Not use headlights in high-beam mode when they see oncoming riders
  • Pause and check for riders coming from the rear before opening their car doors or stepping vehicles
  • Yield to bike riders traveling through dedicated lanes and wait until they have passed safely to make turns

It may also help to consider the rules of safety that govern operating a motor vehicle around youthful pedestrians. Washington state advises that motorists increase the size of the buffer zones that they maintain around child riders since their movements are often hard to anticipate.

After Bicycling Accidents: Children and Comparative Negligence

When motorists collide with adult bike riders, courts may decide that the rider contributed to the accident in some way.

For instance, if a cyclist failed to use the bike lane properly or engaged in unsafe behaviors racing, then they might be found partially at fault and will only receive a portion of the damages they seek in a lawsuit.

With children, partial fault laws are different because these riders may not be legally recognized as being capable of managing their own safety. In other words, they can't be held responsible for engaging in negligent behaviors that contribute to an accident.

The age below which children can't be found negligent varies by state. Also, older children might not be held to the same stringent standards that an adult rider would.

For instance, suppose that a motorist strikes a minor who is not required by state law to wear a helmet. The fact that cyclists neglected to wear head protection might not be deemed sufficient justification to find them at fault for their injuries.

Judges have the leeway to consider their maturity, experience and other factors.

In some cases, parents may be found to have been negligent in some fashion. Imagine that a parent lets their child ride their bicycle in a busy thoroughfare. If the child subsequently sustains injuries that a motorist tried to avoid, then the parent may be held partially at fault.

In states Delaware that impose liability on owners of vehicles that they let a minor drive, parents may be more ly to be deemed responsible for damages.

Just as motorists have to work to minimize risks to children, parents must reduce the hazards they face and not expose them to clear dangers.

Important Takeaways

It's widely accepted that children are at higher risk of getting into bike accidents. Furthermore, most states have some kind of rules that uphold parental liability for minors' injuries and misconduct.

The best course of action is to establish strict rules concerning where, when and how children may ride their bikes. If accidents occur even after parents take such precautions, however, then they may benefit from examining the circumstances in detail to learn how drivers could have prevented the incident.

Speak to an Experienced Auto Accident Attorney Today

This article is intended to be helpful and informative. But even common legal matters can become complex and stressful. A qualified auto accident lawyer can address your particular legal needs, explain the law, and represent you in court. Take the first step now and contact a local auto accident attorney to discuss your specific legal situation.

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