It is unfortunate, but children are injured in accidents and because of negligent conduct each day. When a child is injured, that child has the same rights as an adult to recover compensation for injuries and damages.
However, a child may have a personal injury claim, but a minor cannot file a lawsuit or pursue a legal claim under Georgia law. Minors are not permitted to enter contracts, including settlement agreements for injury cases.
Therefore, parents or legal guardians may file a lawsuit on behalf of a child for injuries to a minor. In addition, the parent or legal guardian may pursue a personal injury case and enter settlement agreements.
However, a few things are different regarding child injury cases that parents should know before filing an insurance claim or lawsuit on behalf of their child.
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What Causes Childhood Accidents That Result in Child Injury Claims?
Children may be injured in the same way as adults. For example, a child may be the victim of a car accident, bicycle accident, dog bite, or slip and fall accident. In addition, children may be injured by defective products or dangerous drugs.
Other causes of childhood injuries that could result in a personal injury claim include:
- Playground accidents and school injuries
- Injuries on school buses
- Dangerous toys and children’s furniture
- Defective fireworks
- Medical malpractice
- Drowning and swimming pool accidents
- Injuries and accidents at day camps, daycares, and overnight camps
- Defective sports equipment
- Accidents and injuries at resorts and amusement parks
- Injuries from sports and recreational activities
- Assaults and sexual abuse
- Defective car seats and seatbelts
There are many more ways that a child could be injured through negligence or intentional wrongdoing. Sadly, many childhood injuries could have been avoided had it not been for the negligent acts of another party.
What Are the Steps in Filing a Personal Injury Claim on Behalf of a Child in Georgia?
The statute of limitations in Georgia is two years from the date of injury for most personal injury claims. However, because a child cannot legally file a lawsuit until their 18th birthday, the statute of limitations for most childhood injuries begins when the child turns 18 years of age.
However, delaying filing a personal injury claim until your child is old enough to do so on their own is not wise. Your child may not recover the total value of their damages if you wait years to file a claim.
Furthermore, there are exceptions to the statute of limitations, so it is always in your child’s best interest to talk with a Georgia personal injury lawyer as soon as possible about a personal injury claim.
After consulting with a personal injury lawyer, you may choose to hire a lawyer to pursue an injury claim for your child. The case proceeds similarly to a personal injury case for an adult.
Proving Negligence and Fault for a Childhood Injury
Your lawyer investigates the cause of your child’s injury and gathers evidence proving negligence and fault.
Even though the injury was to a child, the same legal elements are required to prove liability:
- The party owed the child a duty of care
- The party breached the duty of care owed to the child
- The child was injured as a direct result of the breach of duty
- The child sustained damages because of the breach of duty
The “reasonable person” standard used to judge a defendant’s conduct for breach of duty applies in a childhood injury case. However, if the other party alleges the child is partially to blame for the cause of the injury, the reasonable person standard is adjusted for the child. Children are generally not held to the same standard as adults because they lack the maturity to understand actions and consequences.
Filing an Insurance Claim and Negotiating a Settlement
After your child completes medical treatment and your attorney has all information regarding your child’s injuries, impairments, and damages, the attorney will prepare a settlement demand letter. The letter discusses your child’s injuries and damages, the facts of the case, and the legal argument for fault and liability.
The conclusion of the letter contains a specific monetary amount to settle the injury claim. Your attorney may also include copies of medical records, expert opinions, and other evidence to support the settlement demand.
The insurance company will likely deny the initial demand for settlement. However, it may issue a counteroffer for a lower amount. Your child’s attorney negotiates with the insurance company for an amount that is fair given the facts of the case.
Most personal injury claims settle through negotiations without filing a personal injury lawsuit.
Special Considerations for Child Injury Cases
Special laws apply to child injury cases to ensure that the child’s best interests are protected throughout the settlement process or court case. For example, most child injury settlements or jury verdicts must be held in trust until the child reaches 18 years old. The court limits when and how the funds may be used before the child’s 18th birthday.
In most cases, if a personal injury settlement amount is below $15,000, the parents can accept the settlement on behalf of the child. However, settlement amounts greater than $15,000 require the parent or guardian to petition the probate court to be named legal conservator for the minor child.
As legal conservator, the parent must petition for court approval to accept the settlement offer on behalf of the child. The process is intended to ensure that the child’s best interest is protected because they cannot act on their own behalf as a minor.
Compensation Available for a Child Injury Case
The types of damages available for a child injury case include:
- Reimbursement for medical bills and compensation for future medical treatment
- Compensation for pain and suffering, permanent impairments, and reduced quality of life
- Ongoing nursing care and personal care
- Future damages for lost wages and diminished earning potential
- Compensation for developmental delays, special education, and continuing therapies
Childhood injuries can cause permanent impairments that can significantly impact a child’s future. An experienced Georgia personal injury lawyer works with medical experts, financial professionals, and other expert witnesses, as necessary, to ensure that all damages are included in a claim. The goal is to recover maximum value for your child to give your child the resources they need now and, in the future, to recover from a tragic accident or injury.
Contact Our Georgia Personal Injury Lawyer for a Free Consultation
Nothing is worse than when your child has been injured, and you feel helpless. However, you are not helpless. The legal team at Hawk Law Group is here to help you seek the compensation your child deserves.
Contact our law firm to schedule a free consultation with one of our Georgia personal injury attorneys. Learn more about personal injury cases involving childhood injuries from a compassionate legal advocate for injured victims.