What Should I Do If My Child Was Hurt In a Car Accident?
Millions of people suffer car accident injuries every year, and a large percentage of these victims are children. In many ways, children are more vulnerable to car accident injuries than adults. As a parent, you need to be ready to spring into action the moment your child suffers an injury in a car accident.
What Steps Should I Take Immediately After the Accident?
You need to take certain steps as soon as possible after the accident to protect your child’s health and their legal right to compensation.
Perform First Aid
If you were in the accident yourself, your first move after checking to make sure that you are OK should be to check your child’s condition. Perform any necessary first aid while waiting for the ambulance to arrive because time can be critical.
Seek Medical Attention
Call an ambulance from the scene of the accident if necessary. Have your child checked out, even if you do not believe that they suffered an injury. Seek medical attention for yourself as well.
Keep a Close Watch on Your Child at Home
Keep a close watch on your child during the hours and days that immediately follow the accident. Some injuries, such as whiplash, take some time to generate symptoms. If your child can talk, ask them if they are experiencing any pain. You will also need to know the location of the pain and its intensity.
Replace the Child’s Car Seat
Get a new car seat right away so that your child will ride in a brand-new car seat the next time they ride with you. The reason for this is that the car seat may have suffered damage in the accident that is not visible or obvious. To be on the safe side, simply assume that the accident damaged your child’s car seat.
Get a Copy of the Accident Report
Although you cannot use an accident report as evidence in court (the court will require the officer who wrote it to testify personally), you can use it in settlement negotiations. You can also use it to plan your case strategy.
Seek an Initial Consultation With a Personal Injury Lawyer
Almost any personal injury lawyer will offer you a free initial consultation. This meeting might take place by phone, at the lawyer’s office, or even at the hospital. In any case, make sure you have a copy of the accident report ready, because the lawyer may need information from it.
The lawyer will evaluate whether you have a viable claim. If you do, the lawyer will want to evaluate the strength of your claim, as well as its approximate monetary value. If the lawyer agrees to represent you, the representation will probably be on a contingency basis. This means you won’t pay any legal fees unless you win your case.
Can I File a Lawsuit on Behalf of My Child?
Yes, you can. A guardian must file a lawsuit on behalf of your minor child, and a parent is the most logical choice. A court might refuse to allow you to handle the lawsuit under certain circumstances, such as:
- The accident was partly your fault, resulting in a conflict of interest and turning you into your child’s adversary or
- You are unfit to represent your child (you are currently incarcerated, you have been convicted of domestic violence, etc.).
You initiate a lawsuit by filing a formal written complaint, notifying the opposing party through “service of process”, and paying a filing fee. You will almost certainly need a lawyer to draft the complaint.
What is the Statute of Limitations Deadline for Filing a Lawsuit?
The Florida personal injury statute of limitations is generally four years after the accident. Special rules apply to child victims that could extend this time up to seven years after the accident.
Remember also that the child can file a lawsuit in their own name once they turn 18 if the statute of limitations deadline has not yet expired. Speak to your lawyer for further clarification; statute of limitations issues can be tricky.
Can I Seek Compensation for My Own Emotional Distress?
Possibly. Florida law allows parents to file “loss of filial consortium” claims under certain circumstances.
What Should I Do If My Child Dies From Their Injuries?
Florida wrongful death law permits you to sue for the wrongful death of your child. You can seek the following damages:
- Survivor’s loss of the child’s companionship;
- Survivor’s mental pain and suffering;
- The child’s “net accumulations” (lost savings from future income); and
- Reimbursement for medical and funeral expenses already paid.
The statute of limitations deadline to file a lawsuit is typically two years from your child’s date of death.
The Assistance of an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney Could Be Critical
Child injury cases can be tough to win, especially if your child is very young. You need an experienced personal injury lawyer to help guide you through the process of recovering compensation for your child. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation with a member of our legal team.