If you’re a parent, chances are good that your child rides in some type of motor vehicle every day, whether it is your own car or a school bus. Many of us don’t realize that motor vehicle accidents are a leading cause of both injury and death for children under the age of 12 in the United States. So what can you do if your child is hurt in a car accident?
If your child is injured in a car accident, you may not know what your rights are. While the process is slightly different for minor children, you can file a claim for financial compensation for child injuries sustained in a WV car accident. A West Virginia personal injury lawyer can help you through the process, from filing the claim to negotiating a settlement to taking the case to trial, if necessary.
Based in Charleston, the lawyers of Johnstone & Gabhart represent injury victims throughout West Virginia – including kids who have been hurt in car crashes. We will work with you to help you get maximum compensation for your losses. Reach out today to schedule a free consultation with a member of our team.
Can I File a Lawsuit for My Child’s Injuries After a WV Car Crash?
Just like adults, kids can be hurt in car accidents – even if they’re properly restrained in a car seat, booster seat, or by a seat belt. In this situation, you can pursue a claim against the at-fault driver for the full scope of your child’s injuries, including medical bills, future medical treatment, pain and suffering, and more.
Generally, a personal injury lawsuit has to be brought by the person who was injured (known as the real party in interest). There are exceptions to this rule when a person does not have the capacity to file a lawsuit on their own behalf. Because people under the age of 18 don’t have legal capacity, their parents typically file a claim for them.
West Virginia law specifically allows parents or guardians to negotiate a settlement on behalf of a minor who has been injured in a car accident or another type of accident. The process is slightly different for injuries to a minor, however. For example, if you negotiate a settlement on behalf of your child, you will have to file a petition or motion in the local circuit court to get approval for the settlement and release of liability.
Most personal injury claims are resolved by settlement. There are situations where it may be necessary to file a lawsuit against the responsible party (defendant). As a parent or guardian, you can file this type of lawsuit on behalf of your child. Alternatively, a guardian ad litem may be appointed by the court to pursue the case for your child.
There are other differences between a standard personal injury lawsuit and one involving a child. As an initial matter, the statute of limitations is usually much longer. Typically, a West Virginia injury victim has two years from the date of the car accident to file a claim. However, the statute of limitations for a child does not begin to run until they turn 18 – giving them until age 20 to file a lawsuit.
In addition, comparative negligence is handled differently in cases involving child victims. Normally, if you were partially at fault for a car crash, then your recovery may be reduced by the percent that you were at fault (or even barred if you were more than 50% responsible). The rules for kids under the age of 14 are different because they are either incapable of negligence (7 or younger) or presumed incapable of negligence (7 to 14). As a result, comparative negligence is often not an issue in these types of cases.
Filing a lawsuit on behalf of your child may seem daunting, but it is important to get them the money that they need to move forward with their lives after a car accident. Your child may need significant medical treatment or counseling and therapy for years. Their ability to earn a living as an adult may also be affected. A personal injury claim can help to cover these costs and ensure financial stability for your child in the future.
Has Your Child Been Hurt in a Car Accident? We Can Help.
As a parent, it is incredibly difficult to watch your child suffer from an injury. While a lawsuit won’t make them whole again, it can provide them with the money that they need to recover. Our law firm can work with you to get the money that your child is entitled to for their injuries.
Johnstone & Gabhart aggressively advocates for injury victims who have been hurt in all types of accidents. We offer free initial consultations and never charge a fee unless we recover money for you. To learn more or to schedule an appointment with a West Virginia car accident lawyer, give us a call at 304-343-7100 or fill out our online contact form.