The problem with injury-causing accidents is that they can happen at any time, and they don’t only involve adults. Children can also be responsible for causing serious injuries, or be the victim of one.
But getting compensation becomes difficult, and potentially awkward, if you need to sue a child. Regardless of who caused it, you should never have to pay out of pocket or put yourself in debt for an injury that wasn’t your fault, and we can help you navigate this confusing situation.
The first thing you will have to establish is whether or not the at-fault party or injured party qualifies as a minor. In most states, including Georgia, the age of majority (the age at which a person is considered a legal adult) is 18. However, in Alabama that age is 19.
What Happens If a Minor is the Victim of an Accident?
Minors cannot file lawsuits. But this doesn’t mean minors can’t get compensation when they are injured in accidents caused by other people’s negligence. It just means they can’t get pursue compensation themselves while they are still minors.
The statute of limitations (the time period in which someone can file a lawsuit) for personal injuries in Alabama and Georgia is typically two years from the day of the injury. But in some circumstances, if the injury victim is a minor, that two-year period could be paused and only restart on the day they reach the age of majority instead of the date of the accident. This allows them to file a lawsuit on their own behalf after they turn 18 (in Georgia) or 19 (in Alabama). This may not always be the case, however, and it’s best to check with an experienced lawyer.
Parents Can File Lawsuits on Behalf of Their Children
When small children are injured, it doesn’t make sense to wait a decade or more for them to be able to file a lawsuit on their own behalf, especially when medical bills need to be paid. In these cases, parents can file a lawsuit on behalf of their children. This is called a “pro ami” lawsuit. Any and all claims brought by parents or guardians for medical bills and related expenses are not tolled, and the statute of limitations for those damages still runs from the date of the injury.
It is important to note, however, that while custodial parents and legal guardians have the right to file a lawsuit while pursuing a claim on behalf of an injured child, they do not have the right to accept a settlement on behalf of the injured child when negotiating with the insurance company. All child injury settlements over a certain amount ($5,000 in Alabama and $15,000 in Georgia) have to go to trial and be approved by a judge in a “fairness” hearing.
Judges will also often appoint a guardian other than the parent, usually an attorney, to accept the settlement on behalf of the child. This person is called a “guardian ad litem.”
Judges Decide How Much Money Parents Receive for Their Children’s Injuries
Parents of injured children also may not be given access to the settlement unless they are also made the child’s conservator (someone appointed by the court to manage a minor’s finances). The judge ultimately decides how much of the settlement the parents can receive, but often the majority of it, aside from what is needed to pay medical bills, is held in trust for the child until they reach the age of majority.
The reason for all this is because not all parents have their children’s best interests in mind, so the court wants to protect the money so it can compensate the actual injured party: the child.
Sometimes a judge will allow for important exceptions, like the purchase of a computer or used car if the minor needs it for school or work, but that is something to discuss with your lawyer.
Child Compensation Cases are Complex
There are a lot more complications that can happen in an accident involving a child, especially if the child was old enough to be considered able to be partially responsible for their own accident.
Because getting compensation on behalf of an injured child is so complicated and varies by whether you live in Alabama or Georgia, we recommend speaking to an experienced personal injury lawyer about the specific details of your case to get more information.
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What Happens When a Minor Causes an Accident?
You may be surprised, and grateful, if you were injured, to learn you can still get compensation if you were injured by a minor. But it’s also complicated.
To sue someone for an injury they caused, you typically have to prove that the at-fault party was negligent, meaning they knew or should have known something was dangerous and did it anyway. Children are generally understood to be unable to recognize what’s safe or dangerous the way an adult can, so they usually can’t be charged with negligence. But it may be possible to file a lawsuit against a minor when they cause intentional injury or property damage.
While a minor usually doesn’t have any money of their own to pay your damages, you may be able to get compensation through the homeowner’s policy or renter’s insurance policy for the home the child lives in.
When it comes to driving a car specifically, a minor is usually held to the same standards as an adult. So if you were involved in an accident with a newly licensed driver, you could still get compensation through their car insurance.
For other types of accidents and younger children who can’t be held directly liable for negligence, you can pursue compensation against the child’s parents or guardians. However, there are usually caps on how much a parent can be held liable for when their child causes harm. In Alabama, parental responsibility is capped at $1,000, and in Georgia it’s capped at $10,000.
If you were seriously injured in an accident caused by a child, there may be other ways to get compensation for your injuries, but we recommend talking to a lawyer about your specific case.
We Have the Experience to Get You Compensation
At the Law Offices of Gary Bruce, we know that as a parent, there is no worse feeling in the world than knowing your child was injured because someone else was careless. You and your child deserve compensation for what you were put through.
When someone is injured by a child, they may feel frustrated and helpless to get compensation. But they also deserve help for their medical bills.
We’ve seen these types of situations many times before, and our Columbus personal injury lawyers know how to handle them respectfully and with grace.
Contact us today to learn how we help victims like you and your family.