As a parent, it’s understandable to want justice if your child suffers an injury due to another person’s negligence or recklessness. The good news is that you may be able to recover compensation for your child’s medical expenses and other costs associated with the injury through a personal injury settlement or verdict. However, a child’s personal injury case is somewhat different than an adult’s, and it’s important to understand the key distinctions as you move forward.
A Child Cannot File His or Her Own Personal Injury Lawsuit
Even if your child is in high school and you believe they are competent enough to file their own personal injury lawsuit, someone under the age of 18 cannot negotiate their own claim in Florida. As a parent or legal guardian, you will need to file the lawsuit in your child’s name. One advantage of this is that you also have the right to compensation for medical expenses that you paid on your child’s behalf.
Parents Have the Legal Right to File a Cause of Action for their Child
In some states, parents need to get pre-approval from the court before they can file a personal injury claim on behalf of their child. However, Florida does not have this requirement—parents have the right to file a claim and hire a personal injury attorney to represent their child’s legal interests.
Rules for Trespassing Are Different in Child Personal Injury Cases
If an adult were to injure themselves after slipping and falling on a property that they didn’t have permission to be on, they would probably only be able to recover damages under rare circumstances, since the act of trespassing relieves the property owner of liability. However, the family of a child who trespasses may receive compensation if the property owner knew of a potentially dangerous condition on their property and also knew there was a risk of children trespassing on their property. For example, the family of a child who drowned in a neighbor’s swimming pool could sue for wrongful death if the neighbor failed to put up any kind of fence to keep children from getting in.
A Child’s Negligence Is Determined by Their Age
As in the trespassing example above, an adult will have a hard time recovering compensation for their injuries if the opposition can prove that they themselves behaved negligently. However, children cannot be held to the same standard because their brains have not finished developing and they do not have the same mental capacity as adults. In looking at children’s personal injury cases, the child’s negligence is determined based on how a child of their age could reasonably be expected to behave. Furthermore, children under the age of 6 cannot be found even partially negligent.
Children and Families May Qualify for Compensation beyond Medical Bills
While medical bills are the most obvious damages that a family would be trying to recover in their child’s personal injury law case, there are a number of other categories in which the family might receive additional compensation. For example, while a child would not likely be able to recover damage for lost income (due to the fact that they are not old enough to work full time), they may recover damages for future loss of income if their injury causes a lifelong disability that prevents them from ever working. Additional compensation may be paid for:
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
The Court May Appoint a Guardian Ad Litem
A guardian ad litem is someone that a court names to represent a child’s best interests in terms of any compensation they receive through a verdict or settlement. In Florida, the court can make the decision to name a guardian ad litem if a child receives $15,000 or more in compensation. In cases where a child receives $50,000 or more, the court is obligated to name a guardian ad litem.
The court may also decide to place a child’s settlement in a guardianship account, which will be paid out to the child as an annuity when they turn 18.
As you can see, children have the same rights as adults to receive compensation for injuries caused by the actions or inactions of others, but the child’s age and inexperience can add unique challenges and complexities to this type of case. Be sure to work with a Florida personal injury attorney who has experience with children’s cases in order to fight for your child get the full compensation that he or she deserves.
About the Author:
Ben Murphey is a personal injury lawyer and a partner at the firm of Lawlor Winston White & Murphey. Mr Murphey has 10.0 Superb AVVO rating, was named Top 1% of Car Accident Attorneys by Car Accident Lawyer, and was named a Super Lawyer by Super Lawyers in 2014. Mr. Murphey is based in South Florida but represents people and businesses across the state who have been harmed by the wrongful acts of others.