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Filing a Personal Injury Claim for a Child or Minor

Accidents happen and parents are well aware of this. But accidents involving a child aren’t always as innocent as spilling finger paint and tripping over a toy. Injuries to a child may be something much more serious.

Think of recent news headlines: A child seriously injured by a negligent home-based daycare provider. An infant in critical condition after being bitten by a relative’s dog. A young boy who suffered a fatal injury at a public water park.   

Accidents can and do happen. When results are severe, it may be beneficial for the parent or guardian to pursue a personal injury lawsuit for their child’s injuries. 

What Parents Need to Know About a Minor’s Personal Injury Claim

The legal process of filing a lawsuit on behalf of a minor differs slightly from an incident involving adults. Key differences in the process are:

1. Individuals younger than 18 years of age need a parent or guardian to pursue their claim.

Although laws may vary by state, a person under the age of 18 is considered a minor in Missouri and Illinois and cannot pursue their own claim unless they have been legally emancipated. Otherwise, a parent or guardian pursues a claim on behalf of their minor child as a “next friend” or “guardian ad litem.”  

It is common for a parent and child to be involved in the same accident, such as an automobile crash. Typically, the damages for this type of incident will be filed as separate claims that are pursued together.

2. Injuries involving a minor typically have a lengthier statute of limitations.

The period of time after an accident during which a personal injury claim can be filed is referred to as a statute of limitations.  

In Missouri, most personal injury claims need to be filed within five years of the date of the accident, depending on the type of claim. An injury involving a minor typically has a much lengthier statute of limitations.

Generally, the five-year time limit does not begin until the child turns 18 years old. In other words, the individual would have the option to pursue their claim from the time the incident first took place until they turn 23 years old. However, it is often beneficial to pursue a claim sooner rather than later to help with paying medical bills, for example.

Do not wait to speak with an attorney to find out whether or not you should file a claim for your child’s injuries. Contact our law firm to schedule an appointment.   

3. Minor children and their parents can seek compensation for a broad spectrum of damages.

Parents have the right to be compensated for medical bills paid on behalf of their child, among other immediate and future expenses.

Damages that can typically be recovered in a personal injury case for an adult or child include:

  • Compensation for medical bills;
  • Emotional distress;
  • Loss of past wages and/or future wages;
  • Pain and suffering;
  • Permanent injury or disability; and,
  • Wrongful death.

4. Different age groups have differing standards of care.

A minor may be injured in an accident involving another child or children, such as an ATV crash. In this type of scenario, the determination of fault is handled somewhat differently than an incident where both parties are considered adults.

In legal language, “standard of care” refers to the degree of caution a reasonable person would use to minimize the risk of an accident or serious injury.

There are several reasons the standard of care that is applied to an adult who causes an accident cannot be applied to a child. For one, a very young child is still learning the difference between right and wrong. The ability to weigh and understand risk also comes with maturity.

Generally, children under the age of seven years old are considered too young to be held liable for causing an accidental injury — but standards may differ for intentional acts or injuries, and incidents involving teenagers and older children.

Any discussion of a person’s potential fault for an accident should take place with a qualified personal injury attorney

5. Protections may be available to the child throughout the legal process.

The decision to pursue a personal injury claim for a minor can be emotionally difficult, and it is understandable for a parent to have concerns about protecting their child from any fears they may have about the process.

Protections available for a child involved in a personal injury lawsuit may include:

  • Identity. The identity of a minor can be protected from any public disclosure.
  • Testifying in Court. Depending on the age of the child, he or she may need to give a deposition to testify about what happened. To protect the child from harassing questions from the defending party or parties, the court can limit questioning through a protective order.   
  • Attendance and Involvement. The child does not need to attend pretrial conferences or mediations and does not always have to be present in the courtroom for the trial.

6. Typically, a judge must accept or approve the case settlement.

Just as a minor cannot pursue their own claim, they generally cannot receive the proceeds of a settlement or judgment in their personal injury case.

In most states, the parent or guardian is responsible for placing the funds in a trust or other secure investment until the minor turns 18 years old. It is also common procedure in many states for a judge to sign off on these measures for approval before the settlement is paid.

Although these measures may seem somewhat intrusive, they are put in place to protect a child’s best interests — and to prevent their parents from using the money improperly.  

Padberg Appelbaum Knepper Will Seek Justice for Your Family

When a child has been seriously injured, it can be very difficult and even traumatic for both the child and their parent(s). The personal injury attorneys at Padberg Appelbaum Knepper in St. Louis have the expertise you need to feel calm and confident throughout the process of pursuing your family’s claim. 

In one recent case, our attorneys represented a young girl who suffered a serious injury to her knee while playing on a school playground. Her knee struck a large spike that was loose in the school playground and suffered permanent scarring to the knee. We obtained a financial settlement for the girl, which was placed in an annuity that she will receive when she reaches the age of 18.

Contact the law office of Padberg Appelbaum Knepper if you or your loved one has a minor child who was involved in a serious accident. To discuss your case with an experienced St. Louis personal injury attorney, schedule your free consultation today.  

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