Children’s personal injury cases are similar to other personal injury cases in some ways, but unique in many regards. For parents or guardians, these cases often pose challenges both procedurally and emotionally, but knowing the important aspects of a child’s personal injury case can be helpful.
1. Get Your Child Properly Diagnosed
After a child is involved in an accident–whether a traffic accident, fall from a height, or collision–it is essential that parents seek proper diagnosis of any injuries. In particular, parents should be concerned with injuries that don’t display outward signs or symptoms, as these can be difficult to identify. For example, a study from the United States Department of Transportation found that children are 10 times more likely to suffer incapacitating injuries in a rollover crash, but these injuries are unlikely to present immediate symptoms.
Without medical care, a parent may not be aware of a head injury or damage to a child’s chest or lungs. To properly diagnose your child, it is best to seek comprehensive medical attention right after an accident occurs. In the following days and weeks, look for changes in behavior, such as onset of depression, disengagement in family activities, and altered sleeping habits. These are all further signs that something is medically wrong.
2. Document Everything Connected to Your Child’s Case
A successful personal injury case is built on convincing and substantial evidence, even in claims made on behalf of minor children. This includes showing the insurance company and court medical bills, police reports, statements from eyewitnesses, and photographs. It is imperative to produce records of the injuries your child sustained and the exact cost of recovery, including ongoing treatment.
A personal injury lawyer can help you collect and organize the evidence within your control. However, the value of an attorney is augmented when it comes to collecting evidence from the defendant during due diligence.
3. Do Not Provide a Statement to an Adjuster
When speaking with an insurance adjuster, it is imperative that you not be dishonest. False or inaccurate statements cause substantial problems as a claim unfolds. However, in Florida there is no requirement that you provide a statement to an adjuster when the insurance company contacts you, and it is in your best interest to avoid providing one. The better course of action is to allow a child personal injury lawyer to handle communication with the insurance company.
4. Florida Allows Parents and Guardians to File on Behalf of Their Children
Under Florida law, a minor child is unable to file a personal injury claim. However, this does not mean the court system is closed to an injured child. Instead, a parent or other legal guardian must file a lawsuit on the child’s behalf.
5. Children and Families May Qualify for Compensation Beyond Medical Bills
Medical bills are the most obvious type of damages in a child’s personal injury case. In certain instances, the costs associated with medical treatment are substantial, and to receive adequate treatment a family needs this compensation. However, a family might be eligible for multiple types of damages.
Additional compensation may be paid for disfigurement, pain and suffering, and mental anguish of the child. It is important for a parent or guardian to know how to request these damages in a claim.
6. Don’t Rush to Settle Your Child’s Case
It is likely that an insurance adjuster will contact you within days of your child’s accident. The insurance company will ask several questions about the accident, and depending on the circumstances, may immediately make an offer to settle a claim. It is in the insurance company’s best interest for you to settle quickly. The extent of all injuries is still unknown, emotions are high, and they know parents are more apt to settle for a low amount. However, for you and your child, it is a mistake to settle immediately.
The Florida system is designed to ensure that you receive compensation for your child’s injuries. It takes into account the long-term effects of an injury and potential expenses down the road. These are expenses the insurance companies are trying to minimize. Speak with a personal injury attorney to ensure any amount reflects the medical costs and other expenses related to a child’s injury.
7. Do Not Sign Any Medical Release Forms
Without receiving qualified advice, you shouldn’t sign any medical release forms or other agreements. These documents could sign away your child’s right to a claim or the opportunity to seek full compensation. Protect your child’s rights by discussing any contract with a personal injury lawyer or competent representative.
8. Do Not Hide Information from Your Lawyer
Honesty and candor with your child’s personal injury lawyer is essential. This means discussing every aspect of the case, even if it could negatively affect damages or the outcome. A lawyer can mitigate harmful or unflattering facts only if they are known prior to negotiation or trial. Surprises during mediation, arbitration, or in court do far more damage to claim.
Early in the process, your lawyer should discuss the parameters of attorney-client privilege and confidentiality. Both concepts are important means for a lawyer to protect personal information and circumstances of your case.
9. The Court May Appoint a Guardian Ad Litem
Florida has put specific procedural safeguards in place to protect the interests of the injured child. One of these safeguards regards settlement of a claim over $15,000. If the settlement amount is under $15,000, a parent may settle the case without the approval of the court. Settlements over $15,000 require a judge’s approval and appointment of a guardian ad litem.
The guardian ad litem will investigate the facts of the cases, look at medical records and evidence of injuries, and talk to the parents or guardian of the minor. Then the guardian ad litem must prepare a report based on this information. The parties go before a judge for a hearing during which the judge will then decide to approve or disapprove the settlement.
10. Hire an Experienced Child Personal Injury Lawyer
An experienced personal injury lawyer makes all the difference at those moments when you need support and knowledge the most. Our Miami personal injury law firm, we understand that a good lawyer gives you peace of mind, which is essential when the personal injury case involves a child. Contact our Miami office for a complimentary consultation by calling toll-free at 1-866-597-4529, locally at (305)441-0440, or by reaching us by email at [email protected] or via SKYPE to arrange a confidential initial consultation.