Written by attorney David Alan Wolf

Can a Grandparent or Other Relative Be Held Liable for Injuries to a Minor Child?

In most States, a grandparent or other relative can be held liable for injuries to a minor child. While many parents would not think of pursuing a claim against a grandparent or other relative, the injured child has legal rights. One of the options, when a child is injured due to the negligence of a grandparent or other relative, is to pursue a claim or case against the grandparent or other relative. The situation often arises involving incidents of injury while visiting the grandparent or other relative. Let's say that a 2 year old child is visiting a grandparent's house that is 2 stories. Typically, the grandparent puts up a gate at the top of the stairs but forgets to do so during a particular visit. Unfortunately, in this hypothetical, the child is at the top of the stairs unattended and falls down the stairs. The child suffers a fractured leg and requires emergency medical treatment. While the grandparent had no intent to injure the child, the incident did take place. Like most personal injury cases, there are typically four elements to a case of this nature.

  1. Duty. This refers to the general duty of the grandparent to provide a reasonably safe environement for the 2 year old at the grandparent's home. In this instance, it would have been reasonable to require the grandparent to either closely monitor the 2 year old and / or to have proper baby gates in place on the stairway.

  2. Breach of Duty. In this instance, the grandparent breached the duty by failing to supervise the child and / or have baby gates in place. With better supervision and / or safety precautions, the incident would have been prevented.

  3. Causation. This refers to the link between the breach of duty and the damages (injuries). The failure of the grandparent to have gates in place or better supervision was the proximate cause of the personal injuries.

  4. Damages. This refers to the harm caused by the negligence. The child suffered a broken leg.

When a claim is purused against a grandparent or other relative, an attorney typically concentrates his or her efforts on homeowner's insurance or other insurance that may apply to the particular case. Of course, the decision as to whether or not to pursue a claim or case is a difficult one especially when dealing with grandparents, relatives, family friends, and neighbors.

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