Answers To The Most Frequently Asked Questions In Child Injury And Death Cases
What should a parent do when their child is injured?
When a child is injured, the initial focus of all parents will be to do whatever they can to ensure that their child recovers as completely as possible from their injury.
Once the fate of the child’s injury is understood, most parents go through a difficult process of deciding whether or not to bring a lawsuit to hold the wrongdoer who caused the injury accountable and to compensate their child for the injury.
If the child heals well and quickly, most parents will let a relatively minor incident go.
However, when the injury has serious physical or emotional consequences, parents should consider a lawsuit.
Will my child be traumatized if we bring a lawsuit for their injuries?
Almost always, no. The laws have changed dramatically in recent years to protect child injury victims. Even in civil cases involving molestation, the identity of the child will be protected and the child will not be able to be cross-examined in the way that people sometimes see on TV and in the movies. The parent or guardian for the purpose of the litigation will be more involved in the lawsuit, and the child will usually be able to live their normal life without the lawsuit interfering in any significant way.
Would my child have to bring a lawsuit himself/herself?
No. The lawsuit will be brought by one of the parents or somebody else the parents choose to act as the guardian for purposes of the litigation. The parent or guardian makes all of the important decisions in the case along with the attorney and a court on the child’s behalf.
What if my child has died due to the fault of another?
In this almost unthinkably tragic situation, the parents, whether still living together or separated, each have a right to bring a lawsuit for their loss of comfort, society and care of a child. Most parents feel a certain amount of empowerment from this type of lawsuit and it can help to deal with the overwhelming grief to know that some type of justice was attempted or done.
What if the defendant blames us for causing our child’s injury or death?
It is true that if at all possible, the defense will attempt to blame the parents for an injury or death to their child. This may occur in a case in which the defense will attempt to claim that, for instance, the parents should have supervised their child more closely and that supervision would have avoided an accident or sometimes a molestation.
These claims can usually be overcome, and even if the parent is found to be partly at fault for the injury or death, it simply reduces their recovery by the percentage of their own fault.
How soon must we bring a lawsuit on behalf of our child?
If your child is injured, you generally have until your child’s 18th birthday to bring a case on behalf of your child, and once your child turns 18, they have an additional one year until their 19th birthday to bring a lawsuit. However, it is generally not a very good idea to wait very long to bring a case because important evidence will be lost and the case of a younger child will be worth more than an older child who has generally recovered well from the injuries.
The exception to the usual statute of limitations rules occurs in medical malpractice cases and cases against government entities.
In a medical malpractice case, a child under five has until their eighth birthday to bring a lawsuit. Any child between the ages of five and 18 has three years from the date of the malpractice to bring the lawsuit.
In cases against government entities, a claim should be brought against the government entity within six months; courts will automatically allow a late claim up until one year from the date of the accident.
In cases in which your child has died, you have two years from the date of the death to bring the action unless it is a government entity in which case you have six months to file a claim, or in a medical malpractice case, you have three years from the date of the malpractice or one year from the date that you discovered that your child died as a result of the malpractice, whichever is sooner (thus, you have as short a period of time as one year).
Will my child injury or death case settle out of court?
Probably. Over 90% of child injury and death cases do settle at some time before trial.
Do I need to retain an attorney?
Except in cases of very minor injuries, you will probably want to hire an attorney to handle your child’s case.
Any settlement involving a child’s case of more than $5,000 must be approved by the court, and attorneys will be able to help walk you through the process of having the guardian appointed and the settlement approved.
More importantly, child injury and death cases normally do not have the type of economic losses that make insurance companies want to settle for a lot of money without an attorney. For instance, in a child death case, there will be virtually no economic losses other than the cost of the funeral; yet, with a good attorney the case can be worth hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars.
In a child injury case, children usually heal fairly well with a minimum of medical expenses. However, there may be some long-term consequences to the injury which an attorney will be able to discover through a thorough investigation and discussions with a specialist and thus, a case can be greatly increased in value.
Most legal questions require complex answers. The answers provided here may not be complete or fully accurate but attempt to provide consumers with abbreviated answers. For more detailed answers to these questions, a consumer should check out other articles in this section of this website, research other legal articles and texts on the subject matter or consult with an attorney.