Can I Bring a Personal Injury Claim on Behalf of a Child?
Children are at risk of being injured in the same types of accidents as adults. In fact, children are also at risk of unique types of accidents and injuries such as playground injuries.
When a minor is hurt due to someone else’s negligence, they have the same right to fair compensation from the at-fault party as an adult. However, minors under 18 are not able to file a personal injury lawsuit or claim.
When a child suffers injuries due to someone else’s negligence or recklessness, a parent or guardian has the right to file a personal injury claim on their behalf in Texas.
With the help of a Houston personal injury lawyer, you can advocate for your child and bring an injury claim to seek the compensation your child needs, not only today but in the future. Attorney Brian White & Associates, P.C., represents injured children and their families in all types of personal injury claims.
Who Can File a Personal Injury Lawsuit on a Child’s Behalf?
In Texas, personal injury claims in which the victim is under 18 are handled differently from personal injuries affecting adults. Because the victim lacks the legal capacity to sue, the lawsuit can come from an adult who stands in for the injured minor as the “next friend.”
The “next friend” who sues on behalf of a child is usually the child’s parents or guardians. However, almost anyone can actually step in to sue on the child’s behalf.
Once a personal injury lawsuit is filed for a minor, the litigation process will be the same as it would be for an adult, except the child’s representative or next friend will make important decisions.
This representative may testify in court and appear for depositions. The minor may be allowed or even required to testify if the court finds the child has the mental capacity to understand the witness oath.
Compensation Available in a Child’s Personal Injury Claim
While financial compensation can’t take away your child’s pain and losses, it can ensure your child receives the care he or she needs. Compensation from a lawsuit can also be used to cover the future damages your child may suffer that are related to the injury.
Depending on the circumstances of your child’s injury, a successful child injury lawsuit in Texas may allow you to recover compensation for:
- Medical expenses. You may be entitled to the full cost of your child’s medical treatment. This includes anticipated future medical expenses, rehabilitation, surgery, medication, and medical devices.
- Disability. If your child is left disabled by someone else’s negligence, a lawsuit can allow you to recover for the estimated costs associated with the disability. This includes your child’s lost capacity to earn an income and live-in care.
- Non-economic damages. This includes your child’s pain and suffering, mental anguish, emotional distress, disfigurement, and lost quality of life.
- Legal expenses. Your Houston child injury lawyer will not charge attorney’s fees or other costs unless they recover compensation for you. If your claim is successful, legal expenses can be demanded from the negligent party.
Note that some courts in Texas are reluctant to reimburse parents for out-of-pocket medical expenses using a child’s settlement. Sometimes the financial obligations a parent faces are viewed as coming with the territory of parenthood. This is not always true, but liens like hospital liens will always be paid out of settlement proceeds.
Your Houston child injury lawyer will help you build your claim on behalf of your child and prove the extent of their injuries. This can be more complicated than it seems. Children are still developing physically which means injuries like fractures or brain injuries can have significant and long-lasting effects.
The effects of a serious injury on a child can be difficult to estimate, especially if the injury is likely to result in disability. Recovering doesn’t just mean time off work like it would for an adult; it can mean significant time away from school. This can hold a child back academically and socially. Children who suffer disfigurement may have long-term emotional and social effects that may not be obvious at first, particularly among young children who haven’t started school yet.
Attorney Brian White & Associates, P.C., will work with medical experts to consider the likely long-term effects your child’s injuries will have on their life. We will seek maximum compensation on your child’s behalf that considers the true effects of their injuries, not just on their life today but as they grow and mature.
Statute of Limitations for a Child’s Injury Claim in Texas
Texas has a unique statute of limitations that applies to personal injury claims for minors. The typical statute of limitations for a personal injury claim is two years. If the injury occurred before the victim was 18, the two-year time limit is paused or tolled until the victim is 18. A child has until they are 20 to file a personal injury claim in most cases.
While your child can wait until they are an adult to file a claim themselves, it’s generally not a good idea. The longer the time period between the injury and the claim, the harder it can be to prove liability and the extent of your child’s injuries. Waiting too long can weaken your child’s claim.
It’s also important to note that only the child’s claims are tolled, not claims that belong to the parents. For example, claims for medical bills will not be paused or tolled because they are the parents’ responsibility, not the child’s. Pain and suffering, disfigurement, and emotional distress, on the other hand, are claims that belong to the child and may be tolled.
This is why Texas also allows parents and guardians to bring a personal injury lawsuit on their child’s behalf before they become an adult.
How Is a Child’s Injury Settlement Distributed?
If your child’s case settles, a guardian ad litem will be appointed by the court as an independent evaluator for the case. This evaluator will make decisions about what will happen with the settlement proceeds, ensure the settlement is fair to the child, and communicate with the attorney and child’s representative.
When the guardian ad litem is satisfied the settlement plans are in the child’s best interests, a minor settlement hearing will be set for the court’s approval of the settlement.
In most cases, the child cannot receive funds from the settlement until they reach 18. The settlement funds can usually be used for things related to the injury that benefit the child including:
- Case costs
- Medical expenses, although the child’s basic medical needs will be the parents’ responsibility
- Exceptional educational costs
- Special items if the child is close to 18
- Investments are allowed with remaining settlement money. The court won’t turn over settlement funds to the child (until 18) or the parent but they may be invested on the child’s behalf.
- Court registry or a bank account used by the court to hold funds for a minor until they are 18.
This hearing is non-adversarial and is only done to ensure the settlement is fair, in the child’s best interest, and funds will be used to benefit the child. As the child’s guardian, you may receive some of the settlement proceeds initially for medical expenses or immediate needs. The rest will be safeguarded for the child.
When funds are held in a court registry, the guardians may make an encroachment request for some of the funds for expenses like special educational expenses or unexpected medical costs.
Once the claim is funded, it will usually be done through a court registry or an annuity. In the case of a court registry, the money will be held until the minor turns 18. Many parents instead choose an annuity because even an 18-year-old may not be mature enough to responsibly manage a large settlement.
An annuity is a unique insurance program that is purchased and then paid out at various times once the child is old enough. Annuities are the most flexible option and do not fund all at once to help young adults manage their settlement.
An annuity can even be set up to provide regular monthly payments, pay when the child reaches a certain age, fund college, or offer lifetime benefits for specific life stages.
Representing Children and their Families in All Personal Injury Matters
At Attorney Brian White & Associates, P.C., our Houston personal injury attorneys know that children can suffer serious and life-changing injuries if they’re involved in an unexpected accident. Many times, these accidents are avoidable but occur because adults don’t exercise an appropriate level of care. We’re here to help you if your child has been harmed through no fault of their own. We represent parents and children in personal injury cases involving:
- Car accidents
- Bicycle accidents
- Pedestrian accidents
- Dog bites
- Swimming pool accidents
- Daycare accidents
- Summer camp accidents
- Bullying and assaults
- Boating accidents, and more
Don’t hesitate to reach out to our legal team for assistance during this difficult time. We’re always here to take your call – 24/7/365.
Contact a Houston Child Injury Attorney for a Free Consultation
Has your child suffered injuries due to someone else’s negligence or reckless behavior? Under Texas law, you may have the right to file a personal injury lawsuit on behalf of your child. Attorney Brian White & Associates, PC is here to help you advocate for your child, protect their rights, and seek maximum compensation.
Contact our law office today to schedule a free consultation with a Houston child injury lawyer. We will help you explore your legal options and the types of compensation your family may recover.