There are children victims in majority of bicycle accidents. Drivers are obligated to exercise more diligence when dealing with children on vehicles. When dealing with people with average age, the drivers are still expected to have a reasonable standard of care in driving and committing acts. Likewise, children are held to a lower standard in terms of the carefulness they can be expected to show while riding bicycles.
Drivers’ Increased Duty of Care around Children
In accidents with bicycles, involving either adult or child bicyclists, the driver’s liability most often depends on whether he or she was negligent. It also depends whether the accident was really brought by the negligence. Whether the cyclist was a child or an adult, the driver must exercise reasonable care in the given circumstances.
There is an increase in reasonable precaution when dealing with children. For example, drivers should expect that particularly young children might suddenly cross into the street or get scared if the driver approaches too fast.
The greater reasonable care to be performed by the driver is also known as unusual care. If a driver sees children, or drives through a place often frequented by children, the driver must pay closer attention and be prepared to stop or turn suddenly if need be. Drivers must be on increased level of alertness and look-out when driving in or around schools, parks, school bus stops, residential neighborhoods, trailer parks and other places where children can be expected.
However, this does not mean that there is presumed negligence whenever a bicycle collides with a child. In cases where the driver showed all the precaution which can be expected but still could not avoid the accident, the driver has satisfied the increased duty of care and should not be found negligent.
Children and Contributory Negligence in Bicycle Accidents
Most of the time, in negligence involving bicycle accidents, the cyclists would also claim for contributory negligence on the part of the children. This is in order to minimize the liability of a person. However, just as drivers are held to a higher standard when children are present, children on bicycles are often held to a lower standard.
Different state laws across the territory would have different laws on whether children can be held guilty of contributory negligence. Under the “tender years” doctrine, most jurisdictions hold that very young children (up to age four in many places) are incapable of contributory negligence because they are incapable of exercising care for their own safety or that of others. This scenario means that a driver cannot contribute to the possibility that the children contributed to the accident.
Between the “tender years” and early teenage years (often from four to fourteen), many states apply a presumption that the child is incapable of contributory negligence. In spite of the protection granted by states to the children, defendant can rebut this assumption, but must prove that under the circumstances in question, the child was capable of exercising care for his or her own safety.