Can Children Sue Their Parents for Negligence in Florida?
What happens in cases where a parent’s negligent behavior results in injury to his or her own child? Does the child have any legal recourse against the parent?
The general rule in Florida is that children cannot sue their parents for negligence. The Florida Supreme Court adopted the doctrine of parental immunity in the mid-twentieth century to prevent inter-family legal disputes. (Spouses generally may not sue each other either.)
“Protecting the family unit is a significant public policy behind parental immunity,” the court stated in a 1982 case. “We are greatly concerned by any intrusion that might adversely affect the family relationship. Litigation between family members would be such an intrusion.”
Note that parental immunity generally does not extend to stepparents.
However, as with any rule, there are some exceptions.
When Do Parents Lose Their Immunity?
One major exception to the parental immunity doctrine arises when the child is injured in a car accident caused (even partially) by the parent’s negligence. If the parent’s insurance covers the child’s injuries and he or she doesn’t pay the child’s medical bills, the child may sue the parent. (Remember in Florida the minimum personal injury protection coverage that drivers must carry is $10,000.) If the child dies then a personal representative may file a wrongful death action on his or her behalf.
This exception does not extend to claims not covered by the parent’s insurance.
An experienced attorney can help you determine whether parental immunity has been waived or does not apply to the facts of your case.
Can A Child Sue on His or Her Own Behalf?
Only people 18 years old or older can file a personal injury lawsuit in Florida, which means that minor children cannot bring their own negligence claims. However, Florida law permits a parent or guardian to sue on the child’s behalf.
Obviously if the child’s claims are against the parent then the parent cannot be the one to file the child’s lawsuit. In some cases a court may appoint a guardian ad litem to represent the child’s interests. A guardian ad litem must actively investigate the facts of the situation and advocate the best interests of the child.
A court may also appoint a guardian ad litem to represent the child’s best interests regarding compensation he or she receives through a jury verdict or settlement agreement, but only if the claim exceeds $15,000. If the claim equals or exceeds $50,000 then the court must appoint a guardian ad litem.
And of course an experienced attorney can answer any questions you have about the guardian ad litem arrangement.
Contact Us Today
Contact a Fort Myers personal injury attorney at The Pendas Law Firm today for a free consultation if you were injured by a family member’s negligence and you are unable to peacefully resolve your issues. We will examine the facts of your case and discuss your legal options.
The Pendas Law Firm also represents clients in the Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Orlando, Miami, Tampa, Jacksonville, Daytona Beach and Bradenton areas.