The Duty of Children

Generally, the law requires a person to exercise the degree of care that a reasonably prudent person would exercise under the same circumstances. This is called "the duty of reasonable care." A person who breaches his duty of reasonable care is guilty of negligence.

A different standard applies to children. Generally, very young children are presumed to be incapable of negligence due to a lack of intelligence and experience. In a personal injury action, a plaintiff may attempt to rebut this presumption by offering evidence that the child is unusually intelligent or experienced for his or her age and that the child understood the consequences of his or her actions. Older children are capable of negligence, but they are not held to the same duty of care as adults. Older children are required to exercise the degree of care that a child of the same age, intelligence, and experience would exercise under the same circumstances. Therefore, when determining if a child is guilty of negligence, the actions of the child are measured against persons of similar age, intelligence, and experience.