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What You Need to Know About Personal Injury Laws and Children

By Renee Nordstrand on February 3, 2021

It is every parent’s worst nightmare to see their child severely injured. All parents want to protect their children, but sometimes, other people behave negligently, and children become injured as a result. There are a number of ways that a child could become seriously hurt, such as through dog attacks, slip-and-falls, swimming pool accidents, and so on. While parents can’t protect their children 100% of the time, especially when others are grossly negligent, they can file a claim to recover proper compensation on their child’s behalf.

At NordstrandBlack PC, we have more than 40 years of combined experience representing children who were injured due to negligent parties. We can clearly explain the legal process to parents and help them secure full compensation for their children’s injuries. In one recent case, we represented the family of two sisters who were minors when they were struck by a car while crossing the street. We understand firsthand how devastating these events can be and can provide the representation you and your family need.

Understanding Child Injury Claims and Lawsuits

After being injured in an accident caused by another person, an adult can pursue a personal injury claim against that person’s insurance company in order to recover full compensation for their injuries and losses. We are able to settle many personal injury claims without going to court. However, often times the injured party and the opposing insurance company cannot come to an agreement. In these situations, the injured party has to file a lawsuit so the issue can be decided by a judge and jury.

When a child is injured by a negligent person, the claims process is generally the same, but as a parent, you should be aware of some key differences.

Assigning Legal Representation for the Child

As an adult, if you choose to pursue a personal injury claim or lawsuit, the justice system assumes you are able to make your own decisions. At the end of the day, you are the one in charge, even when working with an attorney.

When children are injured, the court assumes that they are not legally capable of making their own, well-informed choices. This means that a parent or guardian will need to be appointed guardian ad litem to file the lawsuit on the child’s behalf. A guardian ad litem is a legal representative who can advocate for the child’s best interests and has the power to act on behalf of the minor.

Whether the case is settled with an insurance company out of court or you file a lawsuit in court, the child’s parent or guardian must file a petition with the court to be named the child’s guardian ad litem. This petition must be filed before the court approves the child’s settlement to ensure the child’s interests were protected. Your attorney can file this petition when they visit the court to file a lawsuit or to file paperwork to have the settlement reviewed by a judge.

In most cases, the court will appoint one of the parents to act on the child’s behalf. Parents understand how serious an accident is for a child and the associated effects of their injuries, making them the best option to represent a child. If the parents or guardians cannot decide who should represent the child, then the court may select a party in their stead. Keep in mind that the court is trying to protect the child’s best interests. The court will most likely choose the party that it feels will best pursue that goal.

How Children Receive Compensation

When an adult settles a claim or is awarded compensation by a judge or jury, they receive the funds directly. This is not the same for a child who must wait until their 18th birthday to receive the funds. A child’s settlement must be approved by a judge, who will determine if it is fair for them. Once approved, the judge will order that the medical bills and other costs be paid from the settlement. Additional compensation will be placed in a blocked account that the child can access when they turn 18-years-old.

Statute of Limitations

In a typical California personal injury case, you have two years after the date of the accident to file a lawsuit to recover compensation. After this period of time, you are no longer legally allowed to file a lawsuit. However, when a child is injured, no matter what age they are at the time of injury, their parent or guardian has until the child is 18-years-old to file a lawsuit. Once the child has become a legal adult at the age of 18, they will have two years from the date of their 18th birthday to file most personal injury lawsuits. Once they turn 20, they will no longer be within the statute of limitations and will lose their right to recover compensation.

Beware, however, there are shorter deadlines if your injuries were caused by a government entity. If an adult is injured by a government entity, worker, or contractor in California, then they have six months from the date of the accident to file a claim with the responsible government entity for compensation. For children injured by a government entity, as it is in a personal injury claim, the deadline is delayed until the child turns 18, according to the Judicial Branch of California as of 2021. After their birthday, the child has six months to government file a claim.

At this point, the process is similar for both children and adults. If the government denies your claim, then you have another six months to file a lawsuit. If the government does not respond to the claim within 45 days, then you have two years to file a lawsuit in a state court.

We at NordstrandBlack PC never recommend waiting months or years to file a lawsuit. A successful personal injury case requires evidence and an in-depth investigation. The more time that passes from the date of the accident, the more likely it is that evidence will go missing. That is why, if your child has been injured in an accident, you need to act quickly and should contact us as soon as possible.

As skilled personal injury attorneys, we have the expertise you need to recover full compensation. We have experience representing children and their families in personal injury claims against negligent parties and government entities. Call us at (805) 962-2022 to find out more about your legal options in a free consultation.

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