Small children should not be left unattended in the car. Otherwise, the legal guardians face consequences, as a ruling now shows.
Leaving your children alone in the car is rarely a particularly good idea – especially on hot days, it can quickly become dangerous for the little ones in the interior. But it is not only the children themselves who are in danger: If you also leave the car keys in the vehicle, other people can also be injured in an accident if the child starts the car. If such an accident occurs due to unsupervised children, the parents may be liable for damages for breach of their duty of supervision, according to the Higher Regional Court of Oldenburg (judgment: 14 U 212/22 of the judgment of 20.04.2023).
Not wearing a seat belt and unsupervised: Two-and-a-half-year-old child starts car
The case at issue concerned the question of whether a mother had violated her duty of supervision towards her two-and-a-half-year-old child. She had put it in its child seat in the passenger seat of the car after a family celebration, but had not fastened his seatbelt. While the mother returned to the house once again, the child crawled out of the seat, took the car key lying on the dashboard and started the vehicle.
Leaving a small child unattended in the car can have consequences for parents in the event of an accident. (Symbolic image) © Westend61/Imago
Toddler starts car – grandmother is seriously injured by the vehicle
The car then made a move forward. The child's grandmother, who was nearby, was seriously injured. The grandmother's health insurance company then filed a lawsuit against the mother for violating her duty of supervision. If the Regional Court of Osnabrück dismissed the action of the health insurance company on the basis of an extraordinary causal chain with which a prudent parent did not have to reckon, the Higher Regional Court of Oldenburg ruled differently on appeal.
You can find even more exciting car topics in the free newsletter from our partner 24auto.de.
Mother must be liable: According to the court, small children must be constantly supervised
The judges at the Higher Regional Court affirmed that the mother was liable. Young children generally require constant supervision. The child's mother had created a very considerable danger by leaving the child alone in the car – and leaving the car key behind, quotes the lawyer portal ra-online from the judgment. In addition, the judges did not consider it uncommon for small children to reach for keys and try to put them in locks. The mother would have had to strap the child in the car seat, take the keys with her or hire someone to supervise her, the judges said. The exact extent of the damages has yet to be clarified. (With material from SP-X)