Children and Personal Injury Claims
While every parent hopes they never need to see their child suffer through an injury, children are just as susceptible to the negligence of others as adults. With that being said, the process for bringing a personal injury claim on behalf of a child has several differences from that of an adult’s personal injury claim. The differences in the processes exist to protect the more sensitive rights and well-being of the child.
The first, and perhaps the most important difference in a child’s personal injury claim, is the time to file a claim. In a case brought by a minor, the “statute of limitations,” or last possible day to file a claim, may extend until two years after the child is considered an adult (18 years old). This means in most cases a child will have until their 20th birthday to bring a claim. However, in a case against a public entity, the child may only have 90 days after their 18th birthday to bring a claim.
After the time period to file a claim is determined, the parents will then have to determine who will bring the claim. Because the child is a minor, they will be unable to bring a claim in their individual capacity until they reach the age of 18. However, the parents may recognize the risks of delaying the personal injury process, so they may choose to petition the court to appoint a “guardian ad litem” meaning a guardian for the purposes of litigation. The appointment of a guardian is done in the Surrogate’s Office nearest the minor’s residence and the guardian is often the child’s parent or legal guardian. If the parent’s interest runs contrary to the child, such as when the parent was the driver of the vehicle, the court may appoint another person who will bear the responsibility of pursuing the claim against the insurance company.
Similar to most adult personal injury claims, a majority of personal injury claims involving children result in a settlement agreement. Before the settlement agreement may be accepted by the representatives of the child, the amount of the settlement must be reviewed and approved by a Superior Court judge to assure the child’s best interests are being protected. This may sometimes require the judge to speak to the child and review their injuries and medical records to determine if the settlement is adequate compensation. The costs and fees incurred by the child’s attorney will also need to be approved by the judge before they are taken out of the settlement.
Lastly, for a settlement to be properly accepted in the case of a child’s personal injuries, the parents of the child must testify that they understand the terms of the settlement, and approve of the agreement. This is particularly important because once the case is settled, no additional compensation can be sought later in relation to the injuries. Therefore, the child will lose their right to bring suit once they reach the age of 18. The parents should make sure they are adequately informed before making any such decision.
In order to make sure a child’s rights are adequately represented in a personal injury matter, parents should consult an experienced personal injury attorney as early in the process as possible. The attorneys at the Rinaldo Law Group are skilled personal injury lawyers, who will fight for the compensation you and your family are entitled to receive. Please contact us today at 908-352-2500 to schedule a free initial consultation.