Parents never want to see their children suffer, so child car accident injuries can be especially terrifying. Parents can 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 minor child.
Minors and the Next Friend Role
Any person younger than 18 is considered a minor. Since the person is underage 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 Virginia
In general, the Virginia statute of limitations for a personal injury case involving adults is two years. This is the period of time a person has to file a lawsuit for damages. However, the statute of limitations for children injured in car accidents is different.
By Virginia law, the statute of limitations does 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.
Those who have the right to initiate legal action should speak with a Fairfax car accident attorney regarding their options. If one is now 18 years old and the accident occurred when they were 12, a lawyer is their best chance of seeking compensation for what happened then. If the accident caused life-long effects, a plaintiff might have a solid case against the liable party or parties.
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
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of quality of life
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.
Whiplash Injury Settlements for a Child Sfter a Car Accident
Whiplash can leave your child in pain and leave you with costly medical bills. As Healthline notes, diagnosing whiplash could require a number of advanced tests, including MRI or CT scans. Treatment for your child’s whiplash could involve pain medication, muscle relaxants, a cervical collar, or exercises to improve range of motion.
A Virginia injury attorney could help you recover the costs required to treat a child’s whiplash after a car accident, including the costs of:
- Emergency room care
- Diagnostic testing
- Visits to a doctor
- Prescription medication
- Medical devices, such as a neck brace
- Physical therapy
Whiplash can even go on to affect your child’s health long after the initial injury, as Healthline notes. We can determine how much your child’s medical costs could be in the future and include this amount in the value of your case.
Your child’s injuries do not necessarily have to be life-threatening in order to seek a payout. If you spent money on paying for your child’s injuries and/or will spend more in the future, you could seek compensation—even if your child’s injuries were more moderate.
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 child’s:
- Severity of injury
- 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 will be dispersed according to the agreed-upon settlement structure. This begins on a date in the future after the child’s 18th birthday.
What You Can Learn During a Free Case Evaluation
Children seriously injured in car accidents could expect months or years of follow-up medical treatment. They could even require lifelong care. These costs can mean mounting healthcare expenses for your family.
You can hire a lawyer who will fight to get your family fair compensation for injuries, as well as pain and suffering. During your free call, you can ask us:
- What forms of damages you could seek for your case
- How much you may be able to seek through a claim or lawsuit
- What steps we can take to help you pursue your case
- How we can get started for you with no up-front fees required
Get a Free Case Consultation Today
At the Parrish Law Firm, PLLC, we pursue justice for your child and advocate for the best settlement on your behalf.
Call our firm today at (571) 229-1800 for a free case consultation.