Unique issues in injuries to a minor

Dealing with an injury caused by the negligent acts of others can be stressful. These feelings are magnified when an injury happens to your child.

No legal remedy can completely compensate for the physical and emotional toll. But a personal injury claim may provide monetary reparations for the medical bills, future care and any lasting harm. There a few things to keep in mind to build the strongest claim.

The law regarding injury claims for minors

By law, parents and guardians are allowed to file claims on behalf of the children they are responsible for. Should they win the case, the parent or guardian becomes the conservator of the financial settlement or funds awarded by the court or jury. This role comes with specific responsibilities outlined in the Georgia statute. 

In a nutshell, the money is earmarked for the minor child. Commonly, a special trust is set up to ensure that the child’s long-term needs are taken care of, and the money is not misspent by the parents.  

Common injuries to children and youths

As with other personal injury cases, minors may have legal claims when they suffer injury from the negligent acts of others.

Common injury claims involving children include birth injuries (medical malpractice), defective toys and baby products (product liability), swimming pool accidents (premises liability), dog bites (strict liability) and car accidents (driver negligence), including bicycle and pedestrian accidents. This list is certainly not exhaustive.

As with any lawsuit, it is necessary to establish that the individual or commercial entity was negligent or is legally accountable. Young children may also be immune from arguments that they contributed to their own injuries. For example, under the law a toddler cannot be found negligent for approaching a dog or putting a toy in its mouth.

Damages may be different for minors

  • Unlike an adult, a 10-year-old will not have a claim for lost wages. But if that child is permanently injured, the lawsuit might seek compensation for loss of future earning capacity.

  • Injuries to children can hamper their growth and development, both physically and psychologically. They are entitled not only to medical care and counseling arising from the injury, but compensation for pain and suffering.

  • Children may need multiple surgeries over time or future surgeries once they have stopped growing. As they grow, they may need new prosthetics, wheelchairs, etc.

These elements require medical documentation and perhaps testimony of doctors, actuaries and other professionals.

Claims must be filed in timely fashion

The Catch-22 of injuries to children is that the degree of recovery and long-term impact may not be known for years, yet there is a statute of limitations to file personal injury claims.

The time frame can vary depending on the circumstances and claimant status. Generally speaking, parents have two years to file from the date of the accident or from the date they discover the injury. However, in cases of medical malpractice, they typically have until the child turns seven years old. Children who want to file claims on their own behalf have a two-year time frame once they become legal adults; in other words, they have until they turn 20.

If your child is injuries, make sure you find a personal injury attorney who has handled cases on behalf of minors. And make sure your lawyer is willing to play “the long game.” A quick settlement may not be in the best interests of your child.

 

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