Parents never want to see their children suffer, so child car accident injuries can be especially terrifying. Parents can best support their children by helping them recover from physical, mental, and emotional injuries while also pursuing those who are legally responsible for their accident.
Find out everything you need to know about obtaining a car accident settlement for a child.
The Infant and Next Friend Roles Explained
Any person younger than 18 is considered a minor. Since the person is under age and cannot legally file a claim, an individual referred to as a “next friend,” files a claim on the minor’s behalf. The parent or legal guardian is often the “next friend” that files the claim. No formal legal proceeding must occur for a person to be named a next friend.
Statute of Limitations
In general, the Virginia statute of limitations – the period of time a person has to file a claim for damages – for a personal injury claim involving adults is two years. However, the statute of limitations for children injured in car accidents is different. By Virginia law, the statute of limitations not begin until the person turns 18. Therefore, a person who was injured in a motor vehicle accident in Virginia as a minor, generally, has until the age of 20 to file a lawsuit.
Potential Recoverable Damages
When children are injured in car accidents by negligent drivers, they may be entitled to damages that cover:
- Hospital bills
- Ongoing medical care
- Therapy and rehabilitation services
- Loss of ability to earn income in the future
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment
In some instances, parents also may get compensation for the financial losses they suffered, such as their child’s ongoing medical expenses
Depending on the specifics of the case, victims also may be awarded punitive damages. These damages are reserved for especially serious cases in which a defendant’s behavior was found to be extraordinarily reckless, willful, or negligent. Punitive damages aim to punish defendants and deter others from acting in similar ways.
Child Car Accident Settlements Must Be Approved by the Court
After the parties reach a settlement in a child car accident settlement, a hearing is held so the court may approve or deny it. In Virginia, a circuit court judge typically approves any child injury settlement.
During the hearing, a judge hears testimony to determine whether the settlement is reasonable and fair. To make this determination, a court may appoint a guardian ad litem to help in the process. To help reach a decision, a judge may question relevant parties, such as the injured child’s parents, about:
- The extent of the child’s injuries
- Current health status
- Education status
- Abilities and disabilities as a result of the accident
- Future anticipated medical needs and rehabilitation
After the court approves a settlement, the next friend also must sign off on it. The child is bound by whatever settlement is reached in the case.
Distribution of Child Injury Settlement Funds
After approving a settlement, the court also has some latitude as to how the funds will be dispersed. Depending on the circumstances of your case, minors may receive all settlement funds once they turn 18.
Sometimes, settlements are structured to pay out a specified amount of damages each year for a certain period of time. If this type of payout is approved, the court will put the funds in a trust, and they are dispersed according to the agreed-upon settlement structure, beginning on a date in the future after the child’s 18th birthday.
Get a Free Case Consultation
Children seriously injured in car accidents often can expect years of follow-up medical treatment and, sometimes, lifelong care, as well as mounting healthcare expenses. If your child was injured, help him or her heal and hire a lawyer who can fight to get your family fair compensation for injuries and pain and suffering.