The Empowered Parent: Can parents of unvaccinated kids be sued?

There’s a lot of anger and fear out there driving the most recent flare up of a vaccination debate that periodically consumes in the media. I’ve seen many talking heads yelling out that parents who don’t vaccinate their children should be sued. Let’s explore.

Can a parent be sued for not vaccinating their children? Of course-this is America. You can get sued for anything. Seriously, though, you probably won’t, but it’s not impossible.

Put very simply, there are two major hurdles to litigation: Proving duty to protect another from disease, and the cost of litigation.

To be held liable for injuring another person, it must be “more likely than not” that your actions caused their injury, and that you failed in a responsibility to protect them. The law doesn’t generally recognize a duty to prevent injury to another, unless there is a special relationship.

Exemptions to vaccine mandates would not exist if they were deemed unreasonably risky for public health by the legislatures. So arguably a person with an exemption could not be found responsible for the spread of disease by exercising a right provided by the very people that are charged with protecting the public health.

If a suit survives all of that and progresses to trial, it will be a battle of the experts spouting off science and debunking biases and lack of evidence. It will be expensive to prove who the injured person caught the disease from. Experts will disagree by testimony on whether the infection was the direct cause of injury. Medical examinations will be done. This case is not going to be cheap.

There’s a huge difference between having a viable legal theory and finding a lawyer to bring your case. Medical malpractice victims can tell you all about it. The cost associated with a case like this makes it highly unlikely a person will find a lawyer. When that fails, they may wonder how hard it can be to write a complaint and do depositions themselves. Or they call MSNBC to talk about the injustice of it all and we’re back to the talking heads.

And what about the flipside: What are the rights of parents who choose not to vaccinate, if their child contracts an illness from a vaccinated child? Basically, it’s the same legal analysis, but they’re going to have an even harder time. The overwhelming weight of popular scientific and medical consensus is on the side of vaccination being a reasonable and expected choice. Whether these experts are ultimately right or wrong, the court defers to them.

So where does that leave us? If a parent chooses to exercise the right not to vaccinate their children, they should consult with an expert about their exemption. All parents should take reasonable precautions to prevent spread of disease. For example, don’t hang out with your friends who just returned from Disneyland for a while. Don’t bring Junior to daycare with the sniffles and a fever after hopping off the plane from that international vacation. Keep recently vaccinated kids away from unvaccinated kids and infants. Wash hands frequently. That kind of stuff —good ole’ common sense — should be the hallmark of Empowered Parenting.

The bottom line is, parenting is hard. Even when we have differences of opinion or parenting style, we should recognize that every parent is making choices with the best interest of their children in mind. Truly Empowered Parents make decisions that are not based in fear. It may sound funny coming from a lawyer, but litigation should be a last resort. Common sense, personal responsibility and education are the best tools we all have to avoid being sued or being injured.

About Valerie Borek

Valerie Borek, Esq. is a Delaware County native with a passion for empowering people. She believes a strong family is a building block to strong communities. She founded her law firm to serve families with a focus on parenting and family rights. As a mother herself, she knows that parents face tough choices and need support. Valerie is grateful to be in a profession where she can guide people through life’s circumstance so they can focus on the things in life that matter most. Valerie finds her greatest motivation in helping families strengthen their health and wealth. These two foundational areas of life resonate through the day-to-day and when we feel comfortable and secure in these spheres, we are free and enabled to create and nurture the lives we desire. Visit her at www.vboreklaw.com

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