What Should I Do If My Child Was Hurt in a Car Accident?
Car accidents can change a family forever. They are particularly heartbreaking when a child suffers catastrophic injuries. If your child has been injured in a vehicle accident, there are steps you can take to help secure compensation to support your child on the difficult road ahead.
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Can My Child Receive Compensation for Injuries?
If someone else is responsible for causing your child’s injuries, they should be held financially accountable. As a minor, your child cannot pursue legal action on their own, but you can file a lawsuit on their behalf. An experienced car accident lawyer can help you seek justice for your child and fight for compensation to help support their future needs.
That means you can seek compensation for:
- Medical bills
- Physical therapy
- Home medical equipment
- Tutors or assistive educational technology
- Modifications to vehicles or your home to accommodate disabilities or mobility issues
- Mental and emotional trauma
- Reduced earning capacity caused by the injuries
Calculating damages for a child’s injuries can be a complex process. Many injuries can have long-term, expensive consequences. A skilled personal injury lawyer will carefully analyze your case and hire experts who will help determine the future effects of the accident on your child.
Steps to Take After a Car Accident
Panic often sets in after a car wreck, but remembering a few key steps can help put you in the best position to care for your child going forward.
Call for Help and Remain at the Scene
This is obvious, but many people panic after an accident – especially when their kids are involved. You may be tempted to rush your child to the hospital, but call 911 or the police and wait for help to arrive. Police will complete an accident report and ensure that your child gets the medical attention they need. Even if the accident doesn’t require an ambulance trip to the hospital, filing an accident report is required if anyone is injured.
Collect Evidence from the Accident
Take pictures of everything that you think could be important – your child’s injuries; damage to any vehicles; and the overall scene, including the position of the vehicles and any other obstacles that could have contributed to the accident. Try to get the contact and insurance information from everyone involved in the accident. If you see anything you think could be significant, take a photo.
Seek Medical Attention
Don’t try to assess your child’s injuries on your own. Always take your child to a medical professional as soon as possible after an accident. This may seem obvious, but sometimes we are overly optimistic and overlook the possibility that serious injuries could have occurred.
If you seek compensation for your child’s injuries, a documented medical exam completed after the accident is critical. Waiting never leads to a good outcome. You risk putting your child at greater risk for undetected injuries or complications. And, it leaves you vulnerable to arguments from the insurance company that your child wasn’t really all that hurt if you didn’t go to a doctor.
Have a Consultation with an Attorney
Most reputable personal injury attorneys offer free consultations. They won’t take your case unless they think you have a good chance of recovering compensation through a settlement or trial verdict. They work on a contingency fee basis, which means you won’t owe them any money unless they recover a financial award for you.
An attorney who is familiar with dealing with child injuries will be able to advise you about the process for filing a lawsuit on behalf of a minor.
What Injuries Do Children Sustain in Car Crashes?
Children may be subject to some of the same types of injuries in vehicle accidents as adults. However, due to their size and the fact that they are still growing, injuries may have more severe and longer-lasting consequences.
Some of the most common injuries for children in car accidents include:
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Head and neck injuries
- Skull fractures
- Rib fractures and lung injuries
- Bowel injuries and pelvic fractures
- Disfigurement and scarring
- Emotional trauma
Children may sustain brain injuries that don’t result in symptoms for several years. The brain can be injured in areas where it isn’t fully developed, which means that neurological deficits might not be apparent until many years later when the child begins to use those functions.
This leads to the need for careful monitoring of your child and ongoing worry.
Who Is Liable for My Child’s Car Accident Injuries?
If another driver was clearly at fault for the accident, they can typically be held liable for injuries caused by the accident. However, recovering compensation is rarely easy.
New York is a “no-fault” state when it comes to car accidents, so that means you’ll have to look to your Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance first. If there’s a serious injury, you may be able to file a lawsuit against the at-fault party to recover additional compensation.
Insurance companies (even your own) will put up a big fight when you file a claim.
That said, possible liable parties could include:
- The driver of another vehicle
- A government entity (for example, if your child was injured on a school bus)
- A truck driver
- A car seat or seat belt manufacturer
There are often multiple causes of auto accidents, which leads to a lot of finger-pointing. New York’s pure comparative fault law means that compensation will be reduced if you were partially at fault for the accident. A good lawyer will have the resources to investigate the cause and protect you from unfair blame.
How Does the Statute of Limitations Affect My Child’s Injury Claim?
There are a few exceptions, but in most cases, you have three years to file a lawsuit to seek compensation after an accident in NYC. That’s the statute of limitations (deadline) for filing personal injury cases in New York.
You Can File a Lawsuit Right Away
As the child’s parent, you can file a lawsuit on their behalf within three years of the accident. Any settlement proceeds will be put into a special fund until your child turns 18. The court monitors settlements for minors very carefully.
You can talk with your lawyer about options for structuring a settlement or a trust to protect settlement funds. A large amount of money being released at one time for an 18-year-old can be overwhelming. They often need help managing money so that it can best support their medical and personal needs.
You Can (But Probably Shouldn’t) Wait Until Your Child Turns 18
There is another option, but it probably only makes sense if your child is near the age of 18 when the accident occurs. The statute of limitations is put on hold if the injured victim is a minor. So, your child could file a lawsuit in their own name when they turn 18. However, there are good reasons to avoid this option.
First, dealing with a complicated lawsuit at the age of 18 can be overwhelming for your child, especially if they are still recovering from their accident. You are in a much better position to handle the logistics of the lawsuit on their behalf.
Second, it’s always best to consult with an attorney as soon as possible after an accident. The longer you wait to take legal action, the harder it is for everyone involved to remember what happened. Physical evidence may be more difficult to collect, and other medical conditions could muddy the waters about what injuries were directly caused by the accident.
Contact a New York City Personal Injury Lawyer if Your Child Was Hurt in a Car Accident
If your child has sustained injuries in a car accident, contact an experienced New York City personal injury lawyer as soon as possible to discuss your case. A lawyer will advise you on the best course of action and maximize the recovery available in your case.