Children have the same right to receive compensation for damages when a party injures them through negligence or intentional torts.
However, children do not have legal standing to file personal injury lawsuits or settle personal injury cases. Therefore, parents and legal guardians can file a personal injury claim on behalf of a child in California.
What Is a Child Injury Claim in California?
Child injury claims are injury cases involving minors. In California, a minor is someone under the age of 18 years.
Even though a minor child cannot file a personal injury lawsuit, they are still entitled to compensation for damages when another party causes them harm. Common situations and accidents that can result in a child injury claim include, but are not limited to:
- Premises liability claims, including amusement park accidents, playground accidents, and swimming pool accidents
- Dog bites and animal attacks
- Automobile accidents
- Defective product injuries (product liability claims)
- Bicycle accidents
- Sports and recreational injuries
- Pedestrian accidents
- Birth injuries
- Slip, trip, and fall accidents
- School bus accidents
- Assault and violent acts
Filing personal injury claims on behalf of a child means you have the burden of proving that the other party injured your child. Typically, you must prove negligence, strict liability, or intentional torts.
Acting on behalf of your child, you can enter a settlement agreement or take the case to trial. However, California has special laws regarding settlements made on behalf of a child before the child turns 18 years old.
Can Parents File a Personal Injury Claim or Lawsuit on Behalf of Their Child?
Generally, a parent or legal guardian can file a claim on behalf of their child. If the parents live separately, the custodial parent can file a child injury claim.
Additionally, a court-ordered guardian ad litem can file for the child. In some cases, the court appoints a guardian ad litem to protect the child’s legal interests, even though the child’s legal guardian or custodial parent petitioned the court for a compromise hearing.
What Does Minor’s Compromise Entail in California?
Even though a parent can file a personal injury claim for their child, they cannot legally settle the claim without court approval. California Probate Code §3500 states that the parent must petition the court to approve the settlement agreement. The petition is filed in the county where the minor resides or where a lawsuit could be filed to pursue the claim. This process is referred to as “minor’s compromise.”
If a lawsuit has not been filed, a parent or legal guardian can petition for approval of the settlement agreement. However, if a lawsuit has been filed, the petition must be filed by the guardian ad litem for the minor.
At the compromise hearing, the judge reviews the settlement agreement to determine if the agreement is in the child’s best interest. If so, the judge grants court approval for the settlement and specifies how the settlement proceeds must be handled.
The judge could order that the funds be held in a blocked account, special needs trust, or a minor’s settlement trust. The judge might allow the child’s parents or guardian to handle the funds for smaller settlement amounts.
What Types of Damages Can a Child Receive for a Personal Injury Claim?
Children are entitled to compensation for all damages incurred because of another person’s negligence. Therefore, a settlement agreement or jury verdict could include compensation for economic and non-economic damages.
Examples of economic damages in child injury cases include:
- The cost of medical treatment and care, including surgeries, therapy, medications, special medical equipment, etc.
- Expenses related to modifications of the home and vehicle to accommodate a child’s permanent impairment or disability
- The cost of in-home and long-term nursing care and/or personal care
- Out-of-pocket expenses and costs
- Expenses related to special education and occupational therapy
- Future lost wages and a decrease in future earning capacity
The amount of economic damages depends on several factors, including the type and severity of the child’s injury. Permanent injuries could result in a lifetime of special needs and loss of income.
An injured child may experience intense pain and suffering because of their injuries. They are entitled to compensation for these damages too. Examples of non-economic damages in child injury cases include:
- Physical pain and discomfort
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Emotional distress, including PTSD, anxiety, and depression
- Mental anguish and trauma
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Disabilities and impairments
- A decrease in the child’s quality of life
A childhood injury can result in cognitive, developmental, physical, and emotional delays and impairments. Therefore, it is crucial to have your child examined by medical specialists to determine the extent of the injuries and how the injuries could impact your child’s future educational, career, and lifestyle choices.
What Is the Deadline for Filing Claims for Childhood Injuries in California?
A statute of limitations sets deadlines for filing lawsuits and claims. The California statute of limitations for most personal injury claims is two years from the injury date. However, if the claim involves a government entity, you have just a few months to file a claim to protect your right to sue for damages.
However, minors do not have the legal standing to file a lawsuit. Therefore, the state tolls (pauses) the statute of limitations until the child turns 18 years of age. The statute of limitations would begin on the child’s 18th birthday.
There are further exceptions to the rules aside from those mentioned here. Therefore, it is best to seek legal counsel as soon as possible after your child is injured. Furthermore, waiting to seek legal advice could jeopardize your child’s personal injury case.
What Should I Do if My Child Was Injured in an Accident or Other Incident?
Seek immediate medical treatment for your child. The first priority is your child’s health and mental well-being.
If possible, document the accident scene by taking photographs and making a video with your cell phone. Ask bystanders and witnesses for their contact information. This evidence could help prove that the other party caused your child’s injuries.
After your child is stable, contact our law office to talk with one of our Los Angeles accident lawyers. We work with you to schedule a free consultation that works best for your schedule as you prioritize your child’s needs and recovery.
Schedule a Free Consultation With Our Los Angeles Personal Injury Lawyers
We are sincerely sorry that your child was injured. Our lawyers want to help you seek justice for your child. Contact our law office to schedule a free consultation with our experienced Los Angeles personal injury attorneys at 877) 300-4535.