Family Law

Can a Parent Waive Their Child’s Right to Sue?

Most people are aware of the fact that they may not be able to sue for a personal injury if they sign away their rights on a waiver. This often occurs if an adult is getting a tattoo or taking part in an inherently risky activity such as skydiving. The law becomes grayer in this area when it comes to minors. Minors cannot enter a legally binding contract in most instances, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that a parent can sign a contractual waiver on behalf of their children. The law is extremely complicated in this instance, so it is all the more important that parents understand exactly how these laws affect them and their children. 

Can a Parent Waive Their Child’s Right to Sue?

The answer as to whether or not a parent can waive their child’s right to sue is a resounding ‘no’ in some instances and a reluctant ‘yes’ in others. Our injury lawyer New York firm indicates that most states uphold a minor’s right to seek damages in personal injury situations and will not consider waivers signed by parents as a relinquishment of these rights.

There was a recent case in New Jersey where a twelve-year-old boy’s parents signed a waiver releasing a skate park from liability if the boy was injured. The minor was subsequently injured and had to undergo two surgeries, but the courts found that the boy could still file suit since his parents didn’t have legal grounding to sign away his rights. This does not mean, however, that a parent never has legal grounding to sign away this right.

Several courts throughout the country have recognized certain exceptions in relation to the signing of waivers. These exceptions usually relate to schools, community based organizations and non-profit organizations. These community programs often have minimal resources and would likely not be able to continue functioning if they frequently faced personal injury lawsuits. Since these programs are deemed necessary for a community’s enrichment, they are a common exemption to rules regarding waivers and minors. Parents also have the right to sign waivers when it comes to their child’s medical care for the same reason.

What Happens If a Parent Waives Their Child’s Rights?

In instances where parents can legally sign away their child’s rights, such as within community organizations, the child or parent will have no recourse for legal compensation. A Florida appeals court, for instance, found that a mother who had signed a waiver had no grounds to sue her son’s school after he was injured participating in a school sponsored fire rescue program. The court concluded that this school activity fell under a common exception which allows parents to sign away their child’s right to litigation.

When a parent signs a waiver that isn’t related to one of the aforementioned community organizations, the waiver is virtually void when it comes to a minor’s litigation rights. Several companies, however, have recently smartened up and included an ‘arbitration clause’ within their waivers. These arbitration clauses mean that even if the parent cannot legally sign away their child’s rights to recovery, a company can require that the matter be handled through methods other than court litigation if specified in their waiver. The New Jersey court that heard the aforementioned skate park dispute found that an arbitration clause did not violate the minor’s right to file a claim; it simply provided an alternative forum.

Whether or not a parent has legal standing to sign away a minor’s right to seek damages for a personal injury is one of the most complex areas of contractual law. It becomes obvious that there are certain situations, such as in a school setting, where these releases are necessary to allow an educational institution to create a hands-on learning environment without facing legal recourse. In most cases, however, parents don’t have the legal right to sign away their child’s right to recompense, so many waivers signed by parents have minimal effect in the real world.

Author Georgina Clatworthy is a former legal blog editor and contributes this post for The Perecman Firm, an injury lawyer New York group which provides experienced legal counsel for those dealing with personal injuries.  They understand the pain and distress injury cases involving children can bring and work with their clients to ensure their rights are protected.

Family Law

Juvenile Hit and Run: Are the Parents Liable?

Increasingly, the largest proportion of persons who engage in hit and run accidents are not the oldest but the youngest drivers. This is because new drivers are the most likely to be involved in accidents, both because they are the least experienced and because they are generally overconfident. Combine this with a desire not to let their parents (or the police) find out about the accident and it’s no wonder that so many teens choose to flee the accident and turn one problem into two. As such, many parents worry that they will be held liable for the misdeeds and accidents of their children.

Can Parents Be Held Liable for Juvenile Hit and Run?

In a word, no. Unless the parent played an active role in causing the hit and run, such as demanding that the driver flee the scene, they cannot be held liable. Whatever one’s personal stance on personal liability, American courts have refused to hold parents liable for the actions of their children unless they have ordered, coerced or demanded that the children take such an action. As such, if your child is involved in a hit and run accident, especially if he or she tries to hide it from you or lies about its occurrence, then it is almost certain that you cannot be held liable.

What Can I Do To Prevent It?

Your only option to protect your son or daughter from getting caught in this sort of situation is to convince them that they should take pains to avoid it. Teach your children not only to drive responsibly, but to stop at any accidents they are involved in and exchange information instead of trying to flee. For example, any Atlanta injury lawyer will tell you that the strongest factor indicating guilt in most auto accidents is an attempt to flee the scene, especially if police officers have arrived or the accident is particularly grievous in nature. As such, knowing to keep calm while not admitting guilt or trying to flee is important for any driver in such a situation.

What if it happens?

If any of your children are involved in a hit and run, it’s important to consult the best attorney for you such as one that specializes in Atlanta auto accident legal help. A hit and run is a serious crime and can result in the loss of a license, massively increased insurance rates, and even high fines and jail time if there are significant injuries. Running away is also often seen as an admission of guilt, and so even if your son or daughter was not responsible for the accident, the injured party may try (sometimes even successfully) to force them to pay for all resulting damages and injuries because they attempted to flee. As such, not attempting to flee and not admitting guilt is important, and in the event of any serious auto accident (especially one with physical injuries) you should seek legal protection as soon as charges are filed.Car accidents are inherently scary and they are all the more frightening for young drivers. Teenagers are very emotional people with limited experience in the world, and as such they are likely to panic when faced with an unexpected situation where they may fear punishment or injury. As such, training and preparing your children ahead of time won’t just help them avoid accidents, it will help keep them from turning one problem into two by running away from one.

Molly Henshaw is a law student and freelance writer. She is also a contributing author for the Atlanta law firm of Buddoo & Associates. Finding the right attorney is essential after an accident to help protect your children’s rights!