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The Rohrstaff Law Firm

The Rohrstaff Law Firm

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Injured Children in Virginia Need Special Help from the Right Lawyer

Children are special. They are vulnerable and don't know it. Children are not just little adults. Their bodies and brains work differently from ours. 

Our interest in helping children is simple: we were children, we know children, we want children to grow and thrive. Our commitment to helping children is clear: grownups need to treat children with great care, and when they don't, they need to be held accountable for the injuries they cause.

Children suffer the same kinds of injuries adults do: broken bones, traumatic brain injury, burns from flames and chemicals, injuries to the eye, and contusions. But children aren't just miniature adults. Their cases are different, the laws that apply to their cases are different. A Virginia child injury lawyer knows the difference.

The Law

Virginia has what is called "contributory negligence." That is, if the injured person (the plaintiff) is even a bit at fault for causing her own injury, she will lose her case because her negligence "contributed" to the injury. In Virginia, therefore, an injured person must be completely without fault in order to be able to hold someone else responsible for her injury.

It's different for children. Children seven years old and younger are presumed to be without fault. Young children act like young children. Their thought processes are not mature, and their databank of information is scant. Young children act unpredictably because they are young, and it's up to adults to look out for them.

The rules change as children get older. Between the ages of 7 and 14, a child is presumed to be incapable of exercising care for his or her own safety, but that presumption may be rebutted with evidence to the contrary. That is, the child gets the benefit of presumption of innocence, and it is up to the person who injured the child (the defendant) to prove otherwise.

After the age of 14, a child loses all benefit of presumption in his or her favor. At this age, the child is presumed to have sufficient capacity to perceive danger and to have the power to avoid it. This means that a case brought on behalf of child over the age of 14 can be lost if the child's own negligence contributed to his or her injury-unless there is clear proof that the child lacks the discretion that is typical for his or her age. The law does not necessarily measure a child's behavior by the same standards it would apply to an adult; rather, the child's actions are weighed against their age, intelligence, and experience.

All this means that very young children cannot be negligent; children between the ages of seven and fourteen are presumed to be without fault, but evidence to the contrary can remove that protection; and children over the age of 14 are presumed to have adult capacities and can be held responsible for their actions, but the standard by which an older child's negligence is determined is the degree of care expected of a child of like age, intelligence, and experience under the same or similar circumstances. For a child over fourteen years of age, a jury must examine the facts in order to decide whether the child was negligent and contributed to their own injury.

For answers to your legal questions, get our FREE BOOK, When the Bough Breaks, a guide for parents of chidlren who have been injured. Just click on the VIEW DETAILS button on the right and fill in the information on the form on the landing page. OR, contact our office by calling 703-260-6070 and we'll send the book to you.

Sandra Rohrstaff
Virginia Child Injury and Elder Abuse Attorney