How can your child receive money from a personal injury claim?
Watching your child deal with a traumatic injury can be one of life’s most difficult experiences. You may be worried about whether he will fully recover, if he will always struggle to do simple tasks, and how you will pay for his medical bills. If the injury was caused by another person’s negligence, such as failing to pay attention to the road or take proper precautions, you may be able to file a personal injury claim to recover the costs of your child’s injuries and trauma. However, parents in Virginia should understand that the claim process is different for minors.
How are child injury claims different from adult claims?
In general, a child’s personal injury claim will go through the same process as an adult’s: you have to determine who is responsible for the injuries, if negligence contributed to the accident, and the overall costs of the injuries. Evidence also has to be collected to support the claim.
But Virginia has several unique rules for children’s claims, most of which benefit the child:
- A child must have a parent or representative to file a claim for him.
- A child’s claim has more time to be filed than an adult’s claim (2 years after the child turns 18 years old).
- In most cases, a child’s settlement must be approved by the court to ensure it’s fair.
If you meet with us about your child in a free case evaluation, we at GibsonSingleton Virginia Injury Attorneys will explain each of these topics in-depth. But to give you a general overview about what you can expect, here are the seven most common questions we get asked about child injury claims and our answers:
1. Can a child file a claim on his own?
Under Virginia law, children cannot sign legal documents or agree to settlements. Instead, the law states that a child’s “next friend” can file a claim on his behalf so long as the “friend” is at least 18 years old. This “friend” can be any adult that the court believes has the child’s best interest at heart – usually his parents. But the representative could also be an adult sibling, aunt or uncle, or grandparent.
2. Do I have to go to court to be named as my child’s representative?
There is no official process for selecting the “next friend” in a child injury case. Unless there is a disagreement about who should be the child’s representative, either parent can act as the representative without having to go to court.
3. How long do I have to file a claim for my child’s injury?
While there is a time limit to file a personal injury claim in Virginia, deadlines can vary due to various factors. With children in particular, there is no time limit until they turn 18 years old. At that point, a child legally becomes an adult in Virginia, and they have two years to file a claim on their own – specifically, until their 20th birthday.
But, it’s best to file a claim as soon as possible so that your attorney can collect evidence while it’s fresh and have time to negotiate with the at-fault person’s insurance company. In addition, you likely will want to get started paying for your child’s medical bills and long-term treatment, so it’s often in your best interest to get the claim filed sooner rather than later.
4. How do I cover the costs of my child’s medical bills?
If you have health insurance, you should pay your child’s medical bills through your health insurance. If this injury was caused by a car wreck and you have medical payments (med pay) coverage on your own auto insurance policy, that money can also be used to pay medical bills. If you do not have any insurance coverage for the medical bills, you will have to set up a payment plan with the providers.
Regardless of how the bills are paid, you may claim the entire amount of the bills in a personal injury case. Once the case is resolved, by trial or settlement, the money recovered is used to pay any outstanding medical bills and reimburse any money owed to your health insurance company.
5. What about any future treatment or medical bills for my child’s injuries?
The courts understand the significant costs parents have to pay for their children’s medical bills and their financial stake in a child’s settlement. That’s why, at the court’s discretion, funds can be directly paid to you to cover your child’s future medical bills and treatment. These can include surgeries, physical therapy, psychiatric bills, and medication.
6. Do I have to go to court if my family agrees to a settlement in order for my child to receive the money?
Under Virginia law, the money owed to a child after an accident is legally his. Some parents attempt to claim this money as their own; so Virginia courts seek to protect the child’s settlement. But, given that most children do not understand the value of a settlement, the courts will often hold the money until the child turns 18.
Often, this benefits child victims, because their settlements are kept in trust funds that accrue interest. This means that the final amount they receive when they become adults is often higher than their original settlement.
7. How else does the court protect a child?
The courts also want to make sure the settlement is fair to the child. So, even if you did not contact an attorney and you accepted a low-ball offer from an insurance company – which you should not do – the court will still have to review the settlement. These reviews are not as serious as a trial, and you may simply meet with a judge behind closed doors or in a private hearing to discuss the case.
If you had an attorney, the attorney will also need to be present so that the judge can confirm that the contingency fee – the amount of money paid to the attorney – is fair for the child.
In some cases, if the settlement is small, the court may agree to release the funds directly to the child before she turns 18. This can happen if the court thinks she is mature enough to manage these funds on her own.
Compassionate guidance when your family needs it
Keeping track of the laws concerning a child injury claim is difficult, especially when you are focused on helping your child recover. But please understand that you don’t have to do it alone. We at GibsonSingleton Virginia Injury Attorneys are here to help guide you and your family through the court system so that you and your child can be properly compensated for your child’s injuries. We don’t think you should have to worry about deadlines, court proceedings, or insurance negotiations.
My law partner John Singleton and I are experienced Virginia injury attorneys who have filed many successful personal injury claims for minors.
If your child was injured in an accident, we offer you compassionate, proactive representation so that your family does not have to worry about medical bills and future expenses. To schedule a free meeting with us, call (804) 413-6777 or toll-free at (855) 781-6777. We consider serving families in Virginia a calling, and we will share all of your options with you so that you can make the best decision for your family.
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Prevention, empathy, and diligence are hallmarks of everything we do at GibsonSingleton Virginia Injury Attorneys. Our community can see these ideals lived out in our work to prevent personal injuries from happening.
- Safety Education
GibsonSingleton launches a “Texts=Wrecks” campaign to reduce the number of people injured or killed by distracted drivers.
- Annual Coat Drive
During the fall, our team works to distribute coats to people in need in our community.
- Hands-on Service
John and Ken join the Gloucester Point Rotary Club in cleaning up the community.
- Supporting Local Schools
The Gibson family participates in Gloucester’s Botetourt Elementary Shuffle fundraiser.