Liability for BB gun injury?
My neighbor's 15 year old son was injured when he shot himself in the eye with a BB gun while in my garage. This occurred at approximately 11:30pm. I had no knowledge that he was in my garage with my sons where they were playing video games. We are not the owner of the BB gun, nor did I know that it was on my premises.
We called an ambulance and notified his parent when this occurred. He stated to police and his mother that he shot himself, no charges were filed. The young man has a history of running away from home and lacks parental supervision. The parent is stating that she is going to sue me, however.
Although I am deeply sympathetic, I do not feel that I am responsible for his injuries as I had no knowledge he was at my residence, I am not sure if he brought the BB gun to my home (it was not mine), and he engaged in reckless behavior by handling the BB gun.
Am I liable at all? How should I handle this? Should I obtain an attorney? Thanks.
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ANSWER for "Liability for BB gun injury?":
BJ (Rochester, NY):
The severity of the injury will be the controlling factor. If the injury was minor, and did not result in the young boy's loss of vision, or scarring, then you have little to be concerned about. The amount of money in controversy might be only the emergency room bills, and an additional amount for medications. If this is the case, you can file a claim under your homeowners insurance.
If you don't want to file a claim, you can consider telling the parents of the boy you were not responsible for the injury and refuse to pay. The boy's parent has the legal burden of proof to show you were negligent.
Here's more about the legal burden of proof for claims and lawsuits.
Under the facts you present, if the young boy brought the BB gun to your home, and you had no idea he did, nor could you have reasonably discovered he had the gun, the parent will not be able to meet his or her legal burden of proof, and the case will ultimately be dismissed.
Under this fact scenario you present, it's unlikely the parents will find an attorney to accept the case. There just wouldn't be enough money in the case to make it worth the attorney's time and effort. If the parent chooses to sue it would likely be in small claims court. If so, you could choose to defend the case yourself or hire an attorney.
Alternatively, if the young boy's injuries are serious, resulting in permanent loss of vision or scarring, you will need to seek the advice and counsel of a personal injury attorney. Most will not charge for an initial office consultation.
Unfortunately, if this is the case, you would likely have to pay the attorney on an hourly fee basis or pay a flat fee. That could be expensive. However, unless the parent can meet their legal burden of proof, the case will be dismissed.
Under these circumstances you could counter-claim, asking the court to award you the attorney's fees and costs you expended in defense of the case.
The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.
Best of luck,
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