Hergott: Who is responsible when a child gets hurt in the street?

Hergott: Who is responsible when a child gets hurt in the street?

Lawyer Paul Hergott looks at parents responsibility for when a child is hurt playing in the street

Is there parental accountability if a child darts out on the street and is injured?

The context is the court decision of Bourne (Guardian ad litem of) v. Anderson, 1997 CarswellBC 667. I referred to that decision last week when cautioning drivers to slow down and keep a sharp lookout anywhere children might be trick-or-treating.

The motorist in that case was driving on a residential street. Two boys were hiding from and sneaking up on a sister. One of the boys had just darted across the street in front of the motorist, leaving the other one crouched, out of view of the motorist.

The court made a common sense finding: Once a driver becomes aware of the presence of children on a residential street, the driver must take special precautions for the safety of other children who might come onto the street as well.

Special precautions would include immediately reducing speed and keeping a sharp lookout.

Had those special precautions been taken, the motorist would have been able to avoid hitting the next child who darted out after the first. She was therefore found liable for the injuries to the child.

Her clever insurance company, though, sought to pass the blame on to the injured child’s parents. They said the child’s parents should have done a better job of instructing and training their son about street safety.

In legal terms, they were saying that they breached their “parental duty of care”, a duty that us parents owe to our children as well as to others who might be harmed by our children.

We are not held to the unreasonable standard of creating perfectly obedient little soldiers. Nor are we required to keep our children on leashes to eliminate any chance that they might hurt themselves or others.

But we are, indeed, held to a reasonable standard of care when it comes to supervising and controlling the activities of our children.

The parents testified that they had instructed their children to cross the street only at the corner, to look both ways and never to go between parked cars.

The mother believed that her son, aged seven years and four months at the time of the collision, understood the rules, which she never saw him disobey. The father had specifically explained to his son the danger of going onto the street from between parked cars and of playing around parked cars, because the drivers of approaching vehicles would not be able to see him. It seemed to the father that his son understood.

The judge concluded that there was no evidence of negligence on the part of either parent in instructing and training their son about street safety and the claims against the parents were dismissed.

But there was another way the defending insurance company tried to avoid the accountability of the negligent motorist. They also pointed their finger at the injured child.

His parents had taught him about street safety. He was told to cross at the intersection, but instead crossed between parked cars. He also failed to follow the rule about looking before crossing the street. He clearly failed to look out for his own safety and the defending insurance company sought to reduce his entitlement to compensation on the basis of a legal concept of “contributory negligence”.

I will address that issue, of when children will be held accountable for looking after their own safety, in my next column.

Missed a column?

Hergott: Driving and talking to a passenger

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Longtime SOWINS volunteer Diane Fru (far left) walks with members of her family as they Walk To End Abuse Sunday, June 13, 2021. South Okanagan Women In Needs Society (SOWINS) raised a record amount this year. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Walk to End Abuse in South Okanagan breaks fundraising record

More than $53,000 raised so far while the pandemic has increased need for SOWINS’ services

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

RCMP thanked the public for assistance in finding Benjamin Archie, last seen in Princeton. (RCMP)
Missing Chilliwack man found safe and sound

The 80-year-old had walked away from his home in Chilliwack

.
Princeton’s Spotlight wins two provincial awards for excellence

Publisher takes first place for investigative reporting

Princeton GSAR responds 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. In 2020 the crew was called out 34 times, and members spent 721 hours on calls, and 683 hours training. Photo Princeton GSAR Facebook
Teen missing in Manning Park found after 24 hours

Young man spends night on mountain and survives with just a few scrapes

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Premier John Horgan speaks as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, right, and health minister Adrian Dix look on during a press conference to update on the province’s fall pandemic preparedness plan during a press conference from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to provide details on Step 2 of COVID reopening plan Monday

Step 2 could allow for larger gatherings and a resumption of recreational travel

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

Most Read