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Can California kids be sued for causing bicycle accidents?

Minor children old enough to drive are held to the same safety standards as other drivers. The penalties teen drivers face may be different than adult punishments. But, what about child liability for bicycle accidents?

Children of any age with bike-riding abilities may be in traffic. Unfortunately, the victims of auto-bike crashes are often children. Kids aren't old enough or mature enough to take on adult responsibilities, so you may be wondering whether Los Angeles drivers assume automatic fault in accidents involving child bicyclists.

Behavior determines the outcome of accident liability cases in California civil courts. Juries weigh whether a driver or a rider, even a child bicyclist, acted in a reasonable manner. Many states define reasonable behavior separately for adults and children.

You can't expect a five-year-old to act as cautiously as an adult. Since the threshold for a "duty of care" is lower for a child, particularly a very young child, the standard of safety bar is raised for drivers. A driver's required care level goes up when children appear or may appear on a road.

For example, you're driving through a park that has a playground. You know from having driven through the park before that children frequent the area. Even if you don't see a child, you are expected to up your safety game in case one shows up – because the environment tells you that's a probability.

Drivers cannot be found liable solely because an injured party is a child. Courts award damages for negligence and losses due to carelessness. If you did everything a reasonable driver would do to prevent a crash, you weren't negligent and aren't liable.

Minor bicyclists may be responsible for contributory negligence in accidents, depending upon state laws and the age of a child. An attorney can explain whether contributory negligence applies if your child was hurt in a bike accident.

Source: FindLaw, "Child Bicycle Accident Liability" Aug. 27, 201

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