Car accidents can be scary for anyone, but they can be especially tragic and traumatic when children are involved. For children under the age of 13, car accidents are the most common cause of serious injury and death.
After an accident involving a child, you may worry about what your options are as a parent or guardian. But just as adults have legal rights as victims of car accidents, so too do children.
However, a personal injury settlement for a minor child will be handled differently than an ordinary personal injury claim. This is because children who are minors cannot legally speak for themselves, nor can they be directly handed a settlement.
If your child is injured in a San Francisco car accident and you need help filing a claim, Sally Morin can assist you. We know how overwhelming it can be to handle a personal injury claim when all you want to do is protect your child and help them recover from their injuries. Let us handle the claim for you, so you can focus on giving your child the love and support they need.
What to Do After a Child is Injured in a Car Accident
Your first priority after your child is hurt in a traffic accident should be their health and well-being. Children are much more vulnerable to severe and life-threatening injuries as their bodies are not as strong and are still growing. So it’s crucial that you get them immediate medical attention and focus on everything else after their injuries have been addressed.
After getting your child to the hospital, you can then reach out to your car insurance company and a lawyer to discuss your options. Your car insurance company will need to know what happened to get the claim process started for you, and a lawyer can help you navigate the entire claim and legal process to ensure the best possible outcome for you and your child.
Liability and Children in Car Accidents
After a car accident, police, insurance companies, and even the court would review evidence to determine who was at fault, as this would normally play a role in the settlement process. However, children are not held to the same standard of negligence as adults.
So comparative negligence would not come into play in this situation for the child’s personal injury settlement, as they cannot be held liable for the accident. Thus, the adult that acted negligently and caused the accident will be the one held liable and responsible for the damages suffered by the child, such as their injuries.
Statute of Limitations for Child Personal Injury Settlement Cases
The statute of limitations for personal injury claims also changes when a minor is involved. In a normal case, the statute of limitations is two years from the date of the accident, but for a personal injury claim for a minor child, the limitation is delayed until the child turns 18. Thus, with the standard two-year limitation, the deadline for filing a claim is when the child turns 20.
Filing a Claim and Securing a Personal Injury Settlement for a Minor Child
A minor is not legally allowed to enter into a contract in California. This means that an adult must file a personal injury claim for them. This could be a parent or a legal guardian acting as the child’s ad litem. However, there are some circumstances that would allow someone who is over 18 but not their legal guardian or parent to temporarily act as guardian ad litem for them.
After the claim is settled, if the award is more than $5,000, the money must be handled in a certain way to protect the minor from inappropriate use of their funds. Options include:
- A blocked account: The money is placed in a bank account, and the child cannot withdraw until they turn 18 unless a court order says otherwise.
- A special needs trust: A long-term trust that allows for regular distribution of funds to help pay for the child’s ongoing care if they were seriously injured after the accident.
- A minor settlement trust: A more flexible trust that allows money to be withdrawn without court supervision.
Parents or guardians could be compensated for their own financial losses as a result of out-of-pocket expenses they paid to care for the child’s injuries. But the court will limit the use of the funds for any other reason to ensure the child is the one who will have access to the money once they become an adult.
It should also be noted that in addition to court approval for how the settlement money is handled, attorney fees for representation of the minor child must also be approved by the court. There is also a statutory cap in California on what attorneys can charge injured minors as a contingency fee, and this must also be approved by the court.
Attorneys cannot charge more than a 25% contingency fee on the settlement awarded for a minor child. However, there are rare cases where the court may allow more than a 25% fee, but only if the attorney provided “extraordinary” legal representation.
We Handle Your Accident Claim So You Can Focus On Your Life
If you have questions or concerns about your child’s personal injury settlement, the attorneys at Sally Morin can assist you. We are dedicated to helping our clients reach the best possible outcome and ensure their child gets the full settlement they deserve.
Call us at 877-380-8852 or contact us online today for a free case evaluation.