Car Accidents Involving Minors

The most common cause of death by unintentional injury for children is car accidents, according to a story by the New York Times. While the use of seatbelts has successfully reduced the number of children killed in car accidents over the past 25 years, the numbers are still too high. According to a report by NHTSA in 2016, on average, 3 children were killed and an estimated 487 children were injured daily in traffic crashes here in the United States.

Common Injuries Sustained by Children

Toy head injury

When a child is injured in a car accident, the most common injuries include chest and back injuries, organ injuries, and head injuries. While it must be acknowledged that some of these injuries are the result of seatbelts and other safety/restraining devices, the injuries that would occur without these devices would be much more serious. That said, head injuries are usually the greatest source of concern for children and if not diagnosed and treated quickly can lead to a lifetime of serious neurological issues.

Since children may have trouble accurately describing any pain and discomfort they are suffering, it is up to the parent or guardian to look for signs of injuries. Visible signs of injury such as cuts, bruises, and scratches can often point healthcare givers to areas that need further investigation. The adrenaline rush from the accident can keep children from feeling pain for several hours, so special notice should be paid to any complaints of pain after the accident. Also be on the lookout for confusion, lack of energy, limping, or excessive tiredness. 

Not all injuries are purely physical. Children may experience psychological damage from accidents, so also be on the lookout for nightmares, increased anxiety, and other unusual behaviors.

Compensation for Accidents Involving Minors

child crying

Compared to a personal injury case for an adult, the compensation for minors is limited. Damages can include anguish and fear, mental injury, and loss of livelihood. Most insurance companies have no problem covering the medical costs for a minor injured in an accident. In the case of a dispute about these charges or when insurance simply is not enough, medical costs can be added to the damages requested in the injury claim.

Who Can File a Claim

A minor cannot bring their own claim against a third party involved in a car accident, which means that usually a parent or guardian will need to file a claim on behalf of the child. However, to act on behalf of your child, you cannot have been involved in the accident and cannot be responsible for the injuries that the child sustained, but there may be some exceptions to these rules.

Evidence for Accidents Involving Children

broken windshield

Sometimes the driver or responsible party was negligent, subjecting the children to reckless endangerment (perhaps through inebriation or being under the influence). In situations such as this, it is typically not difficult to prove who was at fault. In other cases, however, it can be much more challenging to make a case — especially those where there were no additional factors at play. It is extremely important that all injuries sustained by the child, as well as the treatments for them, be carefully and accurately documented. Eye-witness testimony and the testimony of the child is also key.

Statute of Limitations

One key factor to keep in mind when it comes to car accidents involving children is the statute of limitations in Pennsylvania for such injury claims. The statute of limitations for car accident injury claims is two years. However, if the injury was sustained by a minor, then the timeline for the statute of limitations does not start until the child’s eighteenth birthday. Legally, you have until the child’s 20th birthday to file an injury claim. 

The reasoning behind this exception to the statute of limitations lies in the fact that children are not always able to verbalize their injuries, which means it may take time for a parent or guardian to recognize the extent of injury that the child has experienced. That said, it is not a good idea to wait any longer than absolutely necessary to file an injury claim; evidence and eye-witness testimony need to be gathered in a timely manner for the case to have maximum impact.

Conclusion

If your child has been involved in a car accident, the first thing you need to do is have them checked out by a medical professional even if they are not exhibiting any symptoms of injury. And if any symptoms arise after the accident, make sure they receive the medical treatment they need. Should you believe that a personal injury claim needs to be filed on behalf of the child, do not delay any longer than necessary and make sure to carefully document all injuries and treatments. And finally, even though you may have until the child turns 20 to file a personal injury claim, do not wait any longer than is necessary. Witness memory tends to get hazy with time, so once the extent of your child’s injuries is established, file your claim quickly.

Contact Noel & Bonebrake 

At Noel & Bonebrake, we know how important your children are to you and we understand the sensitivity of dealing with cases that involve children. We will work tirelessly, gathering evidence, tracking down medical records, negotiating with insurance adjusters, and representing you in court to protect the rights of your child — and will do so on a contingency basis so there is no cost to you until you receive compensation. Contact Noel & Bonebrake today and let us represent you and your child. His or her future may depend on it!