Contributory Negligence of Children in Charlottesville

In Virginia, to succeed in a personal injury actions, you must prove that the party that caused you harm was negligent. Negligence is the failure to use ordinary care. If the defendant is found to be negligent, he can try to prove that the injured party was also negligent. If a jury determines that the plaintiff, injured party, contributed to the accident in ANY amount no matter how small, then the jury is suppose to find for the defendant. This is a harsh rule that only two or three other states follow. Most states in the United States follow some form of a comparative negligence, a much more fair system.

Children in Virginia are held to a lesser standard when it comes to contributory negligence. The standard to which a child is held depends on his or her age.

Under the Age of Seven

Children under the age of seven in Virginia are incapable of being contributory negligent.

Age Seven to Thirteen

A child between the age of seven and thirteen is presumed to be incapable of negligence. A jury can find a child of that age negligent if the defense can prove the following two things:

1. The defense has to prove that the child plaintiff had the capacity to understand the nature of the danger and the peril that was associated with that danger. When making the decision the jury must consider the child’s age, intelligence, experience and maturity.

2. The defense has to show that the child’s conduct did not conform to the standard of what a reasonable person of the same age, intelligence, experience and maturity would do under circumstances for his own safety.

If the jury finds both of these elements by the greater weight of the evidence then the defense can rebut the presumption that a child between the ages of seven and thirteen cannot be negligent. If the jury does not find these elements then the child cannot be found contributory negligent.

Age Fourteen to Seventeen

A minor between the age of fourteen and seventeen can be contributory negligent. The jury must measure the actions of the minor plaintiff in this age group by the degree of care that a person of the same age, experience, intelligence, discretion, and knowledge would exercise under similar circumstances.

Virginia law regarding children and contributory negligence is not by code or statute but comes from the common law, or cases decided by the Virginia Supreme Court.