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Can I File a Personal Injury Lawsuit if My Child Was Injured?

Can I File a Personal Injury Lawsuit if My Child Was Injured?

Accidents and injuries involving children, especially when serious, can be immensely difficult for parents. If those injuries were caused by the negligent or wrongful acts of another, parents may have the right to pursue justice and compensation for their child’s pain and suffering, medical treatment, and other expenses by taking legal action. While you can seek a financial recovery on behalf of your child by filing a lawsuit, it is important to know that personal injury cases for adults work differently than child injury cases, and that there are unique issues you’ll need to know and address.

Here are a few important things to know about child injury cases:

  • Negligence – Whether you have a case depends on the unique facts involved in your child’s accident. Generally, victims have grounds to pursue personal injury lawsuits when they have suffered harm and losses caused by another’s negligent or wrongful acts. Most personal injury cases arise from negligence, which makes it critical to evaluate how negligence occurred, who committed the negligent act, and why it constituted a breach of the defendant’s duty when working to recover compensation.
  • Guardian Ad Litem – One of the key differences between child injury cases and personal injury cases involving adults is that courts appoint a guardian ad litem (GAL) to act on behalf of a child’s best interests. This is because children generally lack the ability to represent or advocate for themselves, determine the reasonability of settlements, and defend themselves from being taken advantage of by other parties. In most cases, parents or other relatives chosen by parents after consideration with their attorneys are appointed as the guardian ad litem. It should be noted that the guardian ad litem is not a party to the lawsuit, and does not have a legal right to any financial recovery. They are there to act on behalf of the injured minor.
  • Compromise Hearing – Most personal injury cases are settled prior to trial. If you agree to the terms of a proposed settlement and believe they are fair in providing compensation for your child’s damages, California requires that courts review the settlement to determine whether it is in the child’s best interests. This is called a minor’s compromise, or a compromise hearing.
  • Settlement Funds – Personal injury settlements for minors in California are subject to approval from the court. If the settlement is for significant funds, the court will not approve the minor getting the funds at the age of 18. Rather, the court will order a structured settlement (annuity), with payouts at 21, 25, 30 and 35, or similar delays along those lines. Under limited circumstances, particularly when necessary expenditures related to the child’s injury are needed, the court can issue an order to allow money to be withdrawn from the account prior to the child turning 18.
  • Statute of Limitations – Under California law, the statute of limitations (the time limit by which a lawsuit needs to be filed and beyond which claims will be barred) for injury cases is generally two years from the date an accident occurred. For minor children, however the two-year statute of limitations is tolled until the child reaches 18 years of age. This means the two-year “time clock” will not begin ticking until the child has their 18th birthday, after which they will have two years to file a lawsuit within the statutory deadline. However, given the importance of investigations, evidence preservation, and overall preparation of a case, consulting an experienced attorney as soon as possible is important. Additionally, there may be cases involving intentional and wrongful acts committed against children, such as sexual abuse, which can also extend the statute of limitation, and possibly allow victims harmed as minors in the past to pursue lawsuits as adults.
  • Trespassing – Children can find themselves in some unusual and dangerous predicaments, especially if they are very young, prone to wandering, or simply attracted by things they want to further explore. In some states, there are laws regarding injuries to children and adults who trespass on another’s property. In California, premises liability claims involving children instead focus on the property owner’s conduct, whether they failed to use reasonable care in keeping their property safe, and whether there was a reasonable foreseeability of risks such as children entering the property. If your child injury cases involves issues of premises liability, working with an experienced attorney is important to addressing the unique issues involved.

If your child has been injured in a preventable accident anywhere in Los Angeles or the surrounding areas of California, our personal injury lawyers at Biren Law Group are here to help. Learn more about your rights and child injury cases when you contact us for a free consultation.

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