Car accidents are frightening for anyone, but even scarier when your child is in the car and gets injured. Parents often blame themselves and are filled with guilt, even when the accident was not their fault. The best thing you can do for your child is immediately get them to a doctor so they can assess any injuries and immediately treat them. Second, you should hire an attorney that handles cases on behalf of a child. These cases require are slightly different than when an adult is involved, and it is the child’s best interest to have a lawyer that is familiar with the process.
Many times parents will not even think to get a lawyer, like a car accident lawyer Newport Beach CA trusts, because they believe the insurance companies will “take care” of their injured child. Unfortunately, insurance companies are in the business of money and they have zero interest in actually getting you fully compensated for your injuries (child or adult). Having an advocate for your child will greatly increase the results that you will obtain from the insurance company.
What is the difference between an adult and child getting in an accident?
First, the amount of time one has to bring a claim is dramatically different for a minor child. In CA, under CCP 335.1, an adult must bring a claim within two years of the wrongful act. However, if the injured person is a minor – which is anyone under 18 years old at the time of accident – then CCP 335.1 tolls the statute of limitations until the minor’s 18th birthday (CCP 352). Thus, a minor actually has until their 20th birthday (two years from the date the minor’s 18th birthday) to file a lawsuit if they suffer from a personal injury accident (excludes medical malpractice). Importantly, you do not have to wait to bring a claim for a minor child. You can immediately hire an attorney after the accident and bring a claim and get full justice by suing the wrongful party and their insurance company.
Further, a benefit for claims involving children, is that the court will review any settlement and determine if it is fair/reasonable. The judicial oversight is an effort to protect the child and ensure that the lawyers, medical providers or anyone else involved is not taking advantage of the minor. Even the attorney’s fees provisions are scrutinized by the judge, so that the minor’s lawyer is not over compensated for their services.
Once a settlement is reached, they money is held in trust and released to the minor on their 18th birthday (or at a later date). This allows the funds to grow with interest and protect the money from the child (or their parents). In rare circumstances, the Court can issue an order permitting the money to be withdrawn earlier for specific circumstances. A Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) is also ordered by the court to administer the funds. Most often, the parents or close relative are chosen to be the Guardian Ad Litem.
It is critical that children that suffer injury from an accident are given access to lawyers and medical providers that the can help them heal. Expecting a child to get better with time, and not seek immediate help, is not advisable.
Thanks to our friends and contributors from Bruno Nalu for their insight into car accident cases with minor children.