As personal injury lawyers, we’ve used this blog to dissect everything from celebrity motorcycle accidents to komodo dragon bites, which leaves only one topic left to cover: suing children.
That may seem “heartless,” but if someone hurts you, and you did nothing to deserve it, you should be compensated.
So, get over your outdated ideas of “common decency” and start making a list of all the awful offspring who have ever done you wrong. It’s time to discuss what your options are under Washington state law!
You can’t technically sue a child
Sorry to burst your bubble if you were gung-ho about dragging your neighbor’s mischievous kid to court, but the parents will be the ones sitting across the aisle if you’re injured by a minor.
Let’s say you’re enjoying a day on the slopes when a six-year-old swerves in front of you and causes you significant injury. The first thing you might consider in order to get the case to court would be negligent parenting.
The nightmare on the slopes case actually happened, but was eventually thrown out because an attorney proved the parents had no way of knowing their sweet little skier was one snowplough away from skewering an innocent slalomer.
It’s not exactly bad parenting to let your little Bode Miller bumble through a learning experience, so negligence (and by extension liability) couldn’t be found in this case.
Unfortunately, a lousy guardian isn’t the only thing you need to make a claim...
Did the child act “willfully”?
Let’s be honest, anyone under 18 is just pinballing from one life lesson to the next. Minors rarely understand the weight of their actions and you can’t predict what they’ll do any more than you can stop your drunk brother-in-law from ruining the next Thanksgiving dinner.
This is why the state of Washington holds parents liable only when their kids “willfully and maliciously inflict personal injury on another person.”
Unlike Hawaii, where parents are liable for everything their offspring do, willfully malicious or just careless.
Apparently, the Aloha State is the place to be if you want to sue a child, but the last place you’d want to raise one. Now, back to the Evergreen State...
There is a limit to how much you can sue for
Ok, so someone's child maliciously injures you. Now you’ve got the negligent parents in your sights and you’re ready to take the whole family to court.
We have some bad news.
Under state law, your settlement is limited to $5,000, which based on some cursory research, is about enough to buy you an X-ray of a broken toe and a “put some ice on it” recommendation from Valley Medical Center.
But worry not! There’s always a loophole, and Hulk Hogan is here to explain how to use one to get around these monetary limitations.
“Common law negligence”
Everything described up until this point falls under a specific law, drafted and enacted by the state legislature. However, Washington courts have ruled that under “Common Law Negligence” parents are also liable for their children’s actions when they fail to take steps to prevent a child from continuing dangerous habits they have witnessed firsthand.
And in this scenario, there are no limits to how much you can claim in damages.
Exhibit A: If you can stomach mid-2000s reality TV, Hulk Hogan’s son was clearly portrayed as a reckless driver in Hogan Knows Best. Nick’s street racing, speeding tickets and his parents’ do-nothing attitudes were enshrined in the world of sleazy entertainment.
So when mini Hulk drunkenly slammed his Supra into a highway median in 2007, permanently paralyzing his friend, there was ample evidence that Hogan, quite obviously, did not know best.
Daddy Hulk was keenly aware of his son’s hazardous driving and took no steps to protect the world from his crappy kid. Nick’s injured passenger sued for damages related to the lifelong medical care he will receive (presumably way, wayyyyyyy over $5,000) and won.
If you didn’t do anything wrong, you shouldn’t get stuck with the bill. Case closed.
Even if there weren’t any negligent parents in your case, or the child didn’t act maliciously, our team of personal injury lawyers can probably make a case for you.
So, yea, we may never announce it on a billboard in Seattle, but we’d help you sue a kid. Just give us a call.