October 14, 2021

Can I Sue if My Child is Injured in a Car Accident?

Child in Car

Having a family member injured in a car accident is an emotional experience. However, when that injured family member is one of your young sons or daughters, it is extra stressful. Often, parents of young children who are injured in car crashes have a sense of helplessness. If a child is injured in a car accident, a question that comes up quite often is whether or not parents can file a lawsuit on their child’s behalf.

The simple answer to the question is yes. However, since they are under 18 years old, the lawsuit has to be filed on their behalf by their parents. Although the lawsuit will be similar to when an adult files a claim, there are certain considerations that are different for lawsuits involving minors.

Statute of Limitations

One difference in a lawsuit for a child under 18 years of age is the statute of limitations. In Pennsylvania, there is a two-year statute of limitations for the filing of any personal injury lawsuit. This means that if you want to seek compensation for your injuries caused in a car accident, an adult has two years from the date of the accident in order to file a lawsuit. The lawsuit has to be filed usually at the county courthouse. If the lawsuit is not filed within two years, then the injured party will be forever barred from seeking money damages for their injuries, unpaid medical bills, and lost wages. The statute of limitation for children under 18 years old is different, however.

For a minor, the statute of limitations is two years from the date that they turn 18 years old. For example, if a child was seriously injured in a car crash when they were 15 years old, they do not have to file a lawsuit until two years after their 18th birthday. They do not have to wait that length of time. A lawsuit could be filed as soon as the parents decide to file a lawsuit.

What Damages can a Child Receive?

The damages that a child can receive for serious injuries that occurred due to someone’s negligence in a car accident is similar to what an adult can receive. However, there are some differences. In most cases, adults are entitled to receive unpaid medical bills, lost wages, lost earning capacity, pain and suffering. With an injured child, usually, the child is not working and would not be able to make a wage loss claim. However, if the injuries are severe enough that they would cause lifelong disabilities, then a claim for future lost earning capacity could be made. For example, assume that a child was severely injured in a car accident and became paralyzed from the waist down and they became a paraplegic. That child’s ability to earn a living once they become an adult will be affected by them being paralyzed. A claim for future lost wages and lost earning capacity can be made. An experienced and skilled car accident lawyer would hire a vocational expert and an economics expert to determine the potential lost income that the child would experience in the future due to the injuries and disability.

Usually, with a personal injury case, when the case settles or if a jury awards money for compensation, the attorney fees are taken out, the litigation expenses are taken out, and the balance of the funds goes to the adult client. However, with injured children, this is not the case. A 10-year-old should not receive a check for tens of thousands of dollars, for example. Also, the law states that the money should not go to the parents directly since it technically belongs to the child.

In most instances, a special needs trust is established and funded by the balance of the settlement or jury award. Any money that the child would receive, after attorney fees and litigation expenses are taken out, would go into the special needs trust, and the money would be available to the child once they turn 18 years old.

Under the law, some money from the trust can be used for certain things before the child turns 18 years old. However, the parents would have to get court approval for any money to be taken from the trust to spend on the child. In most cases, a court would approve money for the treatment of medical conditions.

Usually, items like computers or school tuition are not approved, the goal being that the trust amount should remain intact as much as possible until the child is an adult. At that point, the adult child can make a decision on what they want to do with the money themselves.

Are Attorney Fees Different?

Another difference between a child car accident lawsuit and an adult car accident lawsuit is that usually, the attorney fees for cases involving children are less. Every lawyer is different and every law firm is different.

With every personal injury case involving a minor plaintiff, a court would have to approve the settlement, attorney fees, and litigation expenses. The court would also approve the provisions for the special needs trust.

The Attorneys at Anthony C. Gagliano, III P.C. Help Children and Adults File Personal Injury Lawsuits

If your child was seriously injured in a collision, contact our knowledgeable car accident lawyers at Anthony C. Gagliano III, P.C. today. We will fight on behalf of your child. These cases are treated differently than normal cases, so you need an experienced lawyer on your side. Call us at 267-861-7100 or contact us online to set up a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia, we serve clients throughout Montgomery County, Delaware County, and Norristown, Pennsylvania.