Parents’ greatest nightmare is that something could happen that injures their child. It is hard enough to be a parent of any child, let alone having to deal with injuries to your loved ones. It is even more difficult knowing that your child suffered harm due to something that someone else did wrong. Your child and your family are left to bear the consequences of another person’s failures.
While you must bear the physical costs, you do not have to bear the financial costs when someone else caused the injury. You should discuss your child’s legal rights with a Tucson child injury lawyer as soon as possible. At Zanes Law Injury Lawyers, we handle these types of cases, and we can assess your legal options for free.
Children can sustain injuries in many ways. You have undoubtedly seen the horror stories on the news detailing gruesome and catastrophic injuries to children. They may be the first ones to suffer harm in an accident. Even less severe injuries can still leave an impact on a growing body.
Here are some common ways that children can suffer personal injuries that could be the subject of a lawsuit:
Life can be dangerous for children. They often do not have the maturity to handle themselves in challenging or unexpected situations. Beyond that, they have little to no control over the harm that can befall them when people far bigger could pose a threat to their safety. They have no say over what other drivers do on the road when they are passengers in a car. They have no control over the shape of the playground equipment that they use or the pool in which they swim. Yet, their smaller bodies pay the price when someone else is negligent. Given the size of their bodies, this could have severe short-term impacts on their life.
Millions of children suffer injuries in accidents each year. In a recent year, over 121,000 children under the age of 12 suffered injuries in car accidents alone. Thousands more sustain harm just in the normal activities of their daily lives.
Some injuries can be severe – in fact, unintentional injuries are the leading cause of child death in this country. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 12,000 children die each year in unintentional accidents. Over nine million receive treatment in the emergency room annually after they suffer varying degrees of injury.
The current leading causes of child death in the United States are:
When children suffer injuries due to another person’s negligence, they could be entitled to monetary damages. Damages in a child injury case could include:
A parent or guardian could also seek compensation for the child’s physical pain and emotional suffering. If the injury left the child disfigured or limited their ability to participate in certain activities, damages could include payments to acknowledge these losses. A parent might also receive damages for the mental anguish of witnessing the accident that injured their child, and for loss of the child’s companionship.
In rare cases, punitive damages could be available. No matter how serious an injury, negligence is not enough to merit punitive damages. Instead, a plaintiff must show that a defendant acted with the intention of causing harm or consciously acted without regard to the likely harm their behavior might cause. Punitive damages are sometimes awarded against drunk drivers and others who engage in outrageously unsafe conduct. A skilled Tucson lawyer could determine if there is enough evidence to support seeking punitive damages in a particular case.
A “minor child,” as defined under the Arizona Revised Statutes § 1-215(22), is any person under 18 years of age. Because minors lack the legal capacity to file a claim on their own, an injured person may have an eligible party bring a cause of action on their behalf. According to A.R.S. § 12-641, a child injury claim may be brought by either of the minor’s parents or legal guardians.
Minors who wish to file a claim on their own may wait until they are 18 years of age. In Arizona, the statute of limitations for a party to file a personal injury claim is typically two years from the date of injury. Although, if the injured party is a minor, the statute of limitations does not begin to run until the minor reaches legal age. A person injured in a childhood accident has two years from the date of their 18th birthday to file a claim, as specified under A.R.S. § 12-502.
If a minor sustains an injury at a very young age, waiting to file a lawsuit could be detrimental to the case. As time goes on, evidence might get lost, and witnesses may be difficult to track down. An attorney familiar with cases involving minors could provide more information about the advantages and disadvantages of waiting to file a claim.
A judge must approve any settlement on behalf of a child with a value exceeding $10,000. Typically, the paying party petitions a court to approve a settlement and the court then schedules a hearing.
At the hearing, the judge will seek information about the cause of the child’s injury, the prognosis, and the care the child required and could require in the future. The parent or guardian who desires to enter into the settlement must attend this hearing. An experienced child injury attorney in Tucson could help a parent or guardian prepare for their presentation to the judge.
There are several ways to handle a large settlement entered on behalf of a child, and the best methods will vary depending on the circumstances. If the child requires expensive ongoing care, a structured settlement overseen by a guardian ad litem might be the most effective way to ensure that the parents receive the funds they need to give their child proper care. In most cases, a child gains control over these funds when they reach age 18.
There are other special rules for lawsuits involving injured children in Arizona. The statute of limitations is different for these lawsuits. Usually, injured plaintiffs have two years from the date of the injury to file a lawsuit. For injured children, the statute of limitations does not begin to run until the child turns 18. They have two years from that time to file a lawsuit.
This does not mean that parents cannot file a lawsuit before then. Most parents will file a claim when the child is young. After all, they need money for the child’s care now, and they have every legal right as the parent to file a lawsuit on behalf of the child.
When a child receives a personal injury settlement, you may wonder what happens with the money. All settlement proceeds are for the benefit of the injured child, not the parents. The parent may control the money, but they must use it to pay medical and other care expenses. Legally, the child would have access to that money when they turn 18, and they could withdraw all of it. That may not be the best outcome. This is why you need to work with an experienced attorney who may be able to help with a structured settlement.
Another unique issue in child injury lawsuits happens when another child causes the injury. Sometimes, accidents will happen when children are playing, and one child will injure another. Of course, a child cannot face a lawsuit for their own negligence, but the question arises whether you can sue the other child’s parents.
Arizona has a parental responsibility law that could hold parents liable for the acts of their children. Parents are automatically responsible for willful damage that their children cause to others and their property. Parents can face liability for personal injuries caused by a child’s negligence, up to an extent. However, there is a relatively low cap on damages, so you may be better off looking for another responsible party to sue.
Compensation for serious injuries could end up being even more than if an adult was the injury victim. The child has more of their life ahead of them, and theoretically, they suffer more damages from lifelong injuries. In addition, the amount of medical intervention may be even greater, both in terms of the intensity and the amount of time that the child will need care.
Here are some of the special considerations that relate to child injuries:
Every legal concept that applies to an adult also applies to a child. They can endure pain and suffering the same as anyone else. They may even deal with more of it because it lasts for more years. Children can even receive payment for lost wages when they have never worked a day in their lives, based on what they could earn in the future.
However, the damages in a child injury lawsuit could be difficult to estimate for exactly this reason. In cases of serious injury, your attorney should work with experts to estimate the damages. One thing is certain, and that is that the insurance company will have a different story to tell when it comes to making a settlement offer. They may underestimate the extent of your child’s injuries or dispute things that you say that the child needs now and in the future.
Children have the same legal rights as any adult when they sustain injuries in an accident. They can receive full financial compensation for the damage that they sustain. In some cases, their compensation may even be greater, given the amount of time that they have left to live.
However, children cannot file a lawsuit on their own in court, as one needs to be 18 to file a lawsuit. Instead, it is the parents who will file the lawsuit on behalf of the child. Often, any money recovered would go into a trust to cover the long-term needs of the child. This money would not just go into the parent’s bank account. Given the serious nature of some injuries, this is necessary money to have for the future.
There is one other difference in the law when it comes to child injuries. A common defense that people use when facing liability is that the plaintiff caused their own injuries. They will argue that the plaintiff should not be able to recover because they were negligent themselves. This defense does not come into play as much when suing for a child’s injury.
The law holds children to a lower standard for comparative negligence. The law does not expect children to use the same level of care as an adult because they might not know better.
There are other child-related legal principles, such as the attractive nuisance doctrine that holds that a property owner is responsible for securing dangerous conditions on their land to keep children from entering. This means things like placing a cover and fencing off a swimming pool area. Instead of being subject to the standard of a reasonable adult, children are subject to the standard of a reasonable child.
Remember, when you are negotiating compensation, you are negotiating on behalf of your child. This is money that could help them later in life that they will need as an adult. This is why you must make the right decisions now because they can help your child.
However, it is not always easy to know the right course of action. As a parent, your focus is on physically taking care of your child. This is stressful and time-consuming. You may not even have the knowledge or time to deal with the legal process. Nonetheless, you must do the best that you can financially for your child.
This is where we come in at Zanes Law Injury Lawyers. We will fight for your child to receive full and fair financial compensation for their injuries if they are legally entitled to it. First, we will work to establish that someone else is at fault for the injury.
You must follow an entire legal process. It is complicated, and it can be time-consuming. As you can see, there are numerous additional special things to consider when you are dealing with a lawsuit on behalf of a child. None of this may be easy, and you need an attorney who is up to the task.
Along the way, your lawyer may need to battle the insurance company. This will require offers and counteroffers going back and forth between the sides. At some point, your lawyer may even need to file a lawsuit to get what your child legally deserves.
This is a call that you must make very soon after your child suffers injuries. Being without legal representation for any amount of time can be costly. The insurance company could take advantage of you or take other actions to compromise your child’s legal rights.
For any accident-related injury that your child suffers, you should have legal help from a Tucson child injury attorney. This is not a process that you can or should handle on your own because your child’s future is at stake, and there are financial interests out there that would keep money from your child. Contact us at Zanes Law Injury Lawyers today at (520) 777-7777.
4580 E Grant Rd #101
Tucson, AZ 85712