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Can a Child Receive Compensation After a Car Accident?

December 1, 2020

child car accident

Car accidents are a leading cause of injury and death among children. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2018 alone, more than 97,000 children were injured in vehicle accidents, while 636 of them lost their lives. In most cases, a child was a passenger in the vehicle versus a pedestrian or bicyclist.

When an accident occurs involving children, a parent or guardian’s first step is to immediately get medical attention, even if injuries are not obvious. The full extent of the child’s injuries must be documented for both adequate treatment and to build a potential case against a negligent driver. For example, a child may have been subjected to reckless endangerment or to a driver who was operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

What are the Most Common Car Accident Injuries Among Children?

Injuries to children could have lasting effects, sometimes for life. Common car accident injuries to children include:

Car Seat Injuries: Car seats can also potentially cause injury in an accident, although the benefits far outweigh the injury potential.

Airbag Injuries: There are good reasons for children under 12 years old to ride in the back seat, smaller children can be injured by airbags that deploy in an accident.

Head and Neck Trauma: These injuries include skull fractures, whiplash, concussions, and traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). Head or brain trauma can lead to cognitive, developmental, or even behavioral problems in a child later in life.

Chest Injuries: Rib and lung injuries and internal bleeding are common in children after car accidents.

Fractures and Broken Bones: Despite all efforts to restrain them, children can be tossed from the vehicle or within a vehicle, suffering injuries to their extremities and pelvis.

Lacerations, Facial Trauma, and Dental Injuries: Cuts from broken glass and dental or facial trauma from impact can all cause scarring or disfigurement.

Incapacitation: Spinal cord trauma, limb loss, and nerve damage can all permanently disable a child.

Emotional and Psychological Trauma: Even without a head injury, a child can suffer from mental anguish after an accident, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and anxiety. Children may need therapy to help them cope with their emotions.

Can a Parent or Guardian File a Lawsuit on Behalf of an Injured Child?

Virginia law allows a suit to be filed on behalf of a minor, which is usually a child’s parent or legal guardian. The suit must be filed within two years of the accident.

Children under 18 years old cannot file their own lawsuits. If a parent or guardian does not file a lawsuit on behalf of a child, Virginia law dictates that the statute of limitations is put on hold until the child reaches 18 years old. The child then has two years to file a lawsuit on their own, so up until they reach 20 years old.

Should a Lawsuit be Filed for an Injured Child?

If someone else’s negligence causes the child’s injuries, it is a good idea to consult with a lawyer who can help the parents or guardians understand their case. Parents and guardians should also consider how a lawsuit might affect the child who will need to provide testimony about the accident.

Is the Lawsuit Process Different if a Child is Involved?

Under Virginia law, contributory negligence holds that if two people are involved in a collision and both were negligent, neither can recover compensation. This stands true even if one person was 99 percent negligible and the other was one percent negligible. Negligence is defined as the failure to act as a reasonable person would be expected to act in a certain situation. Proving negligence involves defining what a reasonable person’s duty is in a particular situation.

Virginia law states that children under seven years old cannot be held negligent, and children between seven and 14 years old are not mentally able to understand the dangers or consequences of their actions.

It is also important to note that Virginia law says that drivers owe a special duty to children different from that of adults. Greater care is owed to a child than an adult because of a child’s lack of experience and judgment. The law in Virginia regarding children and vehicle accidents is complex. A good first step is to consult a lawyer.

What Damages are Available to Children?

A child may be compensated for both economic and non-economic damages, depending on the situation. It is critical for parents and guardians to keep precise records about treatments and prognoses and emergency room, hospital, doctor, and therapy visits. Recoverable damages can include:

Economic Damages: Bills for all medical expenses related to equipment, services, medical providers, and facilities needed to treat the accident-related injury now and in the future. A lawyer can also help calculate future economic losses if the child’s injuries are long-term or permanent, including the loss of future earning potential.

Non-Economic Damages: Though these losses are more difficult to calculate, they are just as important as economic damages. Non-economic damages include compensation for a child’s pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of quality and enjoyment of life, and the adverse effect on daily living activities.

Punitive Damages: Punitive damages are meant to punish the negligent party, and they may also be awarded.

It is important to note that the parent or guardian may also file a lawsuit to recover their own damages, such as loss of income due to caring for an injured child and other damages.

Who Gets the Compensation Awarded in a Child’s Lawsuit?

Compensation cannot go directly to a child until the child turns 18 years old. If a verdict or settlement is reached before then, funds are generally held by the court in an interest-bearing account until the child is 18 years old. Other arrangements can be agreed on, such as the payment to a trust or a fiduciary or a structured settlement that pays out according to a schedule. If the settlement is $25,000 or less, the court can award the money to the child immediately, even when they are under 18 years old, if they believe it is in the child’s best interest.

Even though a parent or guardian files the lawsuit, any compensation obtained must benefit the child. In most cases, a court will appoint a guardian to ensure that compensation and payouts are in the child’s best interests.

How can a Lawyer Help in a Child Car Accident Lawsuit?

A lawyer will first consult with a parent or guardian to get the facts of the case and establish whether it is strong enough to proceed. If so, the lawyer will do the following:

  • Gather documentation, records, evidence, testimonies, witnesses, and expert witnesses to prove negligence and liability of the other party.
  • Negotiate with the insurance company who will want to pay as little as possible and who will not normally compensate for future costs.
  • Calculate future costs of care, treatment, equipment, and facilities.
  • Calculate future loss of income due to injuries.
  • File all the necessary paperwork following strict deadlines and guidelines.
  • Represent the parent or guardian in court so they can focus on the child’s recovery.
  • Gently and tactfully gather testimony from the child if the child is old enough and physically capable of providing information.
  • Prepare for a court trial.
  • Help parents, guardians, and others keep their emotions in check to avoid actions that might hinder a lawsuit.

Virginia Beach Car Accident Lawyers Fight for the Rights of Injured Car Accident Victims

If a negligent driver caused your child’s injuries, one of our Virginia Beach car accident lawyers can help. At East Coast Trial Lawyers, our legal team provides superior legal representation on behalf of children. We can help you collect compensation for medical bills, future expenses and lost income, and pain and suffering. For a free consultation, contact us online or call us at 757-352-2237. Located in Virginia Beach, Virginia, we serve clients throughout Chesapeake, Eastern Shores, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Suffolk, Virginia, as well as North Carolina and nationwide.

Areas We Serve

Our law firm proudly serves clients injured anywhere in Virginia or North Carolina on personal injury claims, including cases with traumatic brain injury, spinal and neck injury, wrongful death, and more serious injuries. As Virginia Beach personal injury attorneys with many years experience, our team of lawyers will be ready to fight for you. If you were injured on the job, our Virginia Beach Workers Compensation lawyers are ready to serve you.

Call 757-352-2237 or fill out the online contact form for a free consultation about your personal injury, workers compensation, or other attorney services. Our firm adopts a team approach to every case, so while one primary lawyer will be assigned to your case, you have the benefit of an experienced team of lawyers, all working on your side. We are located in Virginia Beach, VA, and serve clients who were injured anywhere in Virginia or North Carolina.

301 Bendix Road, Suite 460
Virginia Beach VA 23452
Ph: 757-352-2237 | Fax: 757-994-8910