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What if my child was hurt in a car wreck?

Monday, February 2, 2015
When fear and anxiety overwhelm, take comfort in knowing the process

Our worst fear is that someone will injure our children. As parents, we will give anything or do anything to protect them. We live to serve our children. We drive them to and fro for activities that will make them smarter, socially well-adjusted, and well rounded individuals. We do all this to ultimately enhance their lives.

happy family sitting in the car

As a good parent, you always drive safely. You stop at stop signs and red lights, yield to oncoming traffic, and drive the speed limit. But the reality is that your safety on the road is contingent upon another person following the same rules of the road. So you are constantly on the lookout for folks who make a conscious or subconscious decision to violate those rules. When someone violates the rules and causes a wreck with your children in the car, your children are your first priority.

If your child is injured in a car wreck, his or her claim is a little different from your claim. Here are some examples of how the claim is handled differently:

First, the general statute of limitations is two years from the date the cause of action accrues. That is the date of the accident in car wreck cases, but it could be another date in other types of cases. But for children, the Virginia Code delays the beginning of the statute of limitations for persons who are under the age of eighteen until the day they turn eighteen. That means, the two year statute of limitations begins on your child’s eighteenth birthday, giving your child a significant amount of extra time to heal prior to having to file suit.

Second, if the insurance company agrees to settle your child’s bodily injury claim, the insurance company will likely require that the settlement be approved by a Judge to make sure that the contract cannot be voided. A person under the age of eighteen who enters into a contract, for whatever reason, has the right to void the contract when he or she turns eighteen. Lawyers call this a voidable contract. It is essentially unenforceable by the insurance company; and the child, when he or she turns eighteen, can still sue for damages after he or she has already received compensation. If the judge approves the settlement, then it becomes final once and for all and the insurance company is forever released.

Third, the court usually requires that the money be paid into the general receiver to be held in trust for the child until the child turns eighteen. This money does not belong to the parents, but rather, it belongs to the child. Parents have a right to recover medical expenses that they incur on behalf of the child as a result of the wreck, but the pain and suffering, inconvenience, etc. belongs solely to the child. In very rare circumstances will the court allow the money to be paid directly to the child or a parent of the child.  You should talk about this with your personal injury lawyer for more information.

These are just a few examples of how your child’s claim is different than yours. The same rules apply to children as they do to adults when it comes to the types of things you should do if you are injured in a car wreck. I’ve blogged about those things here and here and you can review them at your convenience.

If you have any questions about your child’s personal injury case, feel free to contact us for a free personal injury consultation.

Posted by Brandon S. Osterbind, Esq.