When a child is injured in an accident, it is the worst time in a parent's life. Parents often have questions and concerns relating to their children's injury and legal rights. Simply put, we get asked this question all the time: My child was injured in an accident – can we file a claim? The focus of this post is to help answer some of these questions and alleviate some concerns that parents will naturally have when children are injured in an accident.
In Pennsylvania, children have the same rights as adults to bring a claim for personal injury, including getting a lawsuit, if they were injured in an accident because of someone else's negligence; our Philadelphia premises liability attorneys can help with that. The first order of business is making sure that the appropriate medical care is obtained for the child to get the treatment they deserve.
This becomes exceedingly important when a child is injured in a car accident or other accident involving issues relating to the brain, including concussion. Recent studies have shown this type of injury on a developing brain can be long-lasting and take some time to manifest.
However, there are three notable differences in the law.
The significant difference for a child injured in an accident versus an adult's injury claim is that the minor's statute of limitation will not expire until two years after the child turns 18. In other words, even if a little one is injured as a toddler, they will have the right to file a lawsuit against those responsible for their injuries until they turn 20 years of age. The statute of limitations for an injury claim for an adult is two years in Pennsylvania. This extended statute of limitation for a child hurt in an accident is again for the child's best interest. Injuries, especially in very young, developing children, can manifest over time – specifically as mentioned above relating to concussion injuries on a child's developing brain. The extra time allows for the full extent of a child's injuries to play out and be sure that they are recovered before determining what their injury case is worth.
A child (younger than 18) does not have the legal capacity to enter into a fee agreement with an attorney. That means the child's legal guardians have to choose the attorney and sign any fee agreement on behalf of the child. The contingency fee that the attorney can accept for legal services varies. Each county in Pennsylvania has policies regarding the maximum contingent amount acceptable when a child is involved. Each county Court caps an attorney's fee for a child's accident injury case. This is done because the overarching goal is to protect the child's best interest. After the injury and counsel have been chosen, the claim of minor proceeds much the same way an adult's claim moves through the legal system. If and when it comes time for an actual lawsuit to be filed, a child cannot bring a claim in their name alone. The Plaintiff in the case is the child by the parent or guardian—for instance, Billy Smith, a child, by his mother, Connie Smith.
The case will proceed through the litigation process as adults would until it is time for settlement. Before a minor's claim can be conclusively settled, a Petition must be filed with the Court in the county where the litigation is pending or in the county where the child resides. This Petition to the Court will request approval of the settlement, along with the support of the distribution of the proceeds of the settlement. This proposed distribution will detail exactly where the money is going, including the clients' portion, the attorney's fee, costs, and any other items that need to be paid. When the Court does approve the settlement, an Order will be issued. This designates who receives what amounts out of the payment. It also allows any money that is due and owing the child will be placed in an interest-bearing trust account that is not to be touched until the minor reaches adulthood (18) or until a further Court Order is issued.
As a parent, it is essential to understand that a child's personal injury case may take a long time, but the extended process is in place for the child's best interest. That extra level of protection will, in most cases, help to ensure that all the child's injuries are known and well-healed before the settlement of their injury case. If you have any questions about your child's accident, don't hesitate to get in touch with our firm at 215-939-4895. We are happy to take the time to answer any questions you may have if your child was injured in an accident.
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