Seymour Connecticut Child Seriously Injured by Pellet Gun
A Seymour, Connecticut child was injured when a pellet gun was accidentally discharged in his friend's bedroom, according to a Connecticut Post article this morning (see December 21, 2010 P.1 headline). The 13 year old suffered a serious and "life threatening" head wound. The article goes on to state that the gun went off accidentally while the kids were rough-housing, and not while the gun was being used by anyone at the time, and all while the children's parents were at home.
Questions abound: What was a pellet gun, capable of killing someone, doing in a 13 year olds bedroom? Why is such a weapon not locked while not in use? Did the parents of the injured child know that this deadly weapon was in the house at all, let alone unlocked and able to discharge inside the house? Who is legally responsible for the damages caused by this unsuperviseed situation? I can at least answer that final question:
the parents who allow an unlocked and loaded pellet gun to be in a place where it is capable of being handled withouth supervision (the child's bedroom is where the CT Post states the incident occurred), can be held personally liable for their failure to adequately supervise their household when they knew or should have known that a dangerous weapon was loaded and capable of discharging.
Ordinarily, parents are liable for the negliigence of their minor children only to the extent of $5,000 if the incident was solely the result of the child's misconduct. However, parents can be liable in full for damages caused by their failure to supervise a child, and a preventable injury occurs as a direct or foreseeable result of that failure. A further element of the parents' negligence, in addition to the inadequate supervision, is for their specific negligence in failing to properrly secure a very dangerous instrumentalilty (the gun), in their home. It should be noted here that a claim under these circumstances would be made against the responsible parents' homeowners insurance, if they had it in place at the time of the incident. While the claim itself is made against the parents and child, payment would be by the insurance carrier. This method of claims processing is true for most negligence actions. It is rare that a damage claim ultimately has a significant economic impact on the responsible party, aside from perhaps time and a temprorary increase in premiums.
When my own children visit a friend's home for the first time, we ask the parents immediately about weapons in the home, and how they are stored if they have them. This inquiry is neither looked upon as intrusive nor impolite by anyone who reasonably takes responsibility for the safety of the children visiting their home. In fact, most are inspired by the question to know that we, as parents who may host their child someday, will be equally as responsible for their child's safety while at our house. Allowing a lethal pellet gun to be unsecured in a child's bedroom is no different from allowing a child to share his dirt-bike motorcycle with a friend who has never ridden one, or to swim in a pool without supervision.
If your child has been injured while under the care or supervision of someone or some entity outside your home, be sure to know your rights. Contact an experienced Personal Injury Attorney, such as Vishno Law Firm, for a free consultation.
Your rights are not as intuitive as you might think. For instance, you would think that your child's medical bills would be paid directly by the homeowner's or entity's liability insurance carrrierr. This is very rarely the case, and only to a limited degree where there are benefits avaiblable at all. The priority of medical bills processing in any liability/negligence situation is that they go through 1) The medical payments coverage of the responsible person/entity's coverage, if there is that benefit available (usually limited to $1,000-$10,000), and then, if none is available, 2) through your own health insurance coverage. If you have no private insurance to cover bills, or have out of pocket expenses associated with an injury, those out of pocket expenses (co-pays, uncovered expenses, wage losses, etc) become part of the claim for damages and compensation. Those damages will only be paid with the final settlement of the claim, if successful.