The unthinkable has happened. Your child, or a child for whom you’re responsible, has suffered serious injury or harm as a result of an accident or due to the recklessness, negligence, or wrongdoing of someone else. Of course, you feel a need to care for them and get the best medical attention, but you also want to make sure that your child’s right’s are protected, that justice is served, and that your child’s and your family’s suffering and losses are properly compensated. You want to make sure you do right by your child, not only from the medical, but also from the legal point of view. You can do this by making a personal injury claim against the responsible party(s). But it’s important to understand that these claims involving children differ from those of adults in a number of ways. You will need the help of a Decatur child injury lawyer who understands the special issues and remedies involved in pursuing damages on behalf of a child.
Can a child injured make a claim for personal injury damages?
In Illinois, any person who hasn’t reached the age of 18 is considered a minor. Generally, a minor can’t bring a civil claim in his or her own name. Instead, a civil suit is usually brought by, and in the name of, a parent or guardian, a “guardian ad litem” (a guardian appointed by a judge for the purpose of legal actions), or by a “next friend” determined by a court. When a minor in Illinois is involved in legal proceedings, a court has the duty and broad discretion to protect the minor’s interests. To provide extra protection for a minor, a judge will usually also have to approve any settlement on behalf of the child. Without court approval, any “settlement” might not be considered final and binding. You can see that things are a little more complicated than they are with an adult. We can help you through the legal process to ensure that your injured child recovers for the damages suffered.
When can a personal injury claim for a child be made?
Illinois law provides extended statutes of limitation (the time limit on when the case can be filed) for claims involving minors. An adult personal injury suit may be limited by a two-year statute of limitations. But, in the case of a minor, this is extended until two years after his or her 18th birthday. The rule is further extended even longer for specific types of claims. And, in the case of child sex crimes and abuse, recent Illinois legislation eliminated the statute of limitation altogether. However, it’s best to consult a personal injury attorney as soon as possible after the injury, to make sure that all legally required timelines are met, and to help you make sure that important information and critical evidence is gathered and preserved in a timely manner, that the at-fault party(s) are properly identified, that all paperwork requirements are dealt with, and that the damages are properly evaluated and recovered. If your family accepts the first offer an insurance company makes, without legal representation, you’re likely being underpaid for the long-term medical problems and financial burdens resulting from your child’s injury.
Will my child have to go to court?
As in adult cases, the great majority of child personal injury cases never go to a court trial. With good attorney representation, most claims are resolved or settled with the injuring party or their insurance company long before that, often before a lawsuit is even filed. In the rare case that a suit goes to court, judges will make every effort to minimize any needed involvement by the child in person.
What damages can I recover for my child?
It’s important that we, together, carefully identify and evaluate all the damages that your child and family have suffered, so that fair compensation is received. This would include obvious things, such as medical costs, pharmacy costs, physical therapy and rehabilitation costs, travel expenses, long-term care expenses, and any required special medical devices or equipment. However, there can be other economic damages, such as lost work, and, in case of severe injury, even lost future income. But there are also clearly less tangible, non-economic damages that can hurt the child just as much as the actual monetary damages that the events create. We must also consider these damages, such as the pain and suffering the child experiences, and any loss of self-esteem caused by scarring or disfigurement.
A child may suffer from and manifest stress in different ways than an adult would — such as withdrawal from other children, school behavior troubles, impaired academic performance and lost educational opportunities, nightmares, etc. Many medications required to treat your child’s injuries can cause harmful side effects in the child’s life. Your child should be adequately compensated for any loss of their normal life activities, now and in the future. For a child, it’s important to consider how growth and aging may effect how the injuries impact their life later, such as scars requiring revision as the body changes, surgical hardware requiring removal as the body and the materials age, progression of joint abnormalities with stress over time, etc. Injuries can also interfere with your child’s progress through critical developmental stages and, in some cases, failing to complete these key developmental stages can have long-term negative impacts. All these factors may result in future medical procedures and expenses, as well as other economic and non-economic damages.
We have the resources to involve any needed experts to properly evaluate these future risks to ensure that the child is fully compensated not only for current, but also future and long-term losses and impairments that a child must live with for the rest of their life. In rare circumstances, if the other party’s actions were especially unreasonable, we might obtain punitive damages.
How are funds recovered for a minor in a settlement or judgment handled?
Once a settlement is approved, additional steps have to be taken to establish that the funds are properly deposited and protected. Generally, a judge will require that any settlement funds be deposited in an interest-bearing account for the child’s benefit, with specific restrictions on any withdrawals. Often the court must approve any withdrawals from the account before the minor reaches age 18. A final report must be filed with the court showing that the funds have been properly deposited and confirming that any outstanding medical bills have been paid. These requirements are another reason why the help of an attorney experienced in child personal injury claims is essential — both to make sure that all legal requirements are met, but also to ensure that the parents’ and family’s current and ongoing expenses and all injury related bills are paid. In some cases involving injuries to children, our legal team is able to get medical liens released or dramatically reduced.
In some cases, a structured settlement may be in the best interest of the minor. In these cases, an annuity is purchased with settlement funds to protect the money for the child. This option is attractive because it can provide tax-free grown and in some cases, can protect some of the settlement funds for the child until after their 18th birthday.
Where do child injuries occur?
The attorneys in our firm have experience dealing with child personal injury cases that have occurred in many situations. Some are similar to adult accident cases, but many are more typical for children and the circumstances may involve special considerations, such as different kinds of injuries, different standards for determining liability, and even different legal procedures (like when a public entity such as a school is involved). Common injuries may involve:
- Truck and car accidents
- pedestrian accidents
- off-road vehicles, such as ATVs
- bicycle accidents
- day care injuries
- dog bites and other animal attacks
- school injuries or abuse
- injuries from bullying or assaults by other children
- school bus related injuries or negligent bus drivers
- injuries on school trips
- swimming related and pool accidents
- trampoline injuries
- camp related injuries
- carnival or amusement park injuries
- defective or unsafe toys or child care equipment (such as car seats)
- defective or dangerous playground equipment
- hazardous and unsafe conditions or attractive nuisances on other’s property (premises liability)
- household and outdoor fires
- abusive adults in any location
- medical malpractice or failure to properly diagnose
- birth related injuries
What injuries can a child suffer?
Unfortunately, we’ve seen that children can suffer from many kinds of injuries. Some of these include:
- broken bones
- cuts and lacerations
- scalding and burns
- head injuries and concussions
- poisonings and ingestions of hazardous materials or medications
- spinal cord injuries
- birth related injuries
- symptoms related to child abuse
- in the worst case, wrongful death.
How much will it cost me to help with my child’s personal-injury case?
We will discuss or meet with every potential client on a no-obligation basis. This initial case consultation and evaluation is always free. We’ll have a confidential, caring, and careful discussion so that we can help you to evaluate the situation clearly. We’ll discuss your legal options so that you can understand how to ensure that your family receives the compensation they deserve. At our firm, the lawyer who represents you is typically compensated for his expenses and his time working for you on a contingency basis. That means legal fees are paid only if and when you successfully reach a settlement or are awarded damages.
Child injuries can devastate the life of a family, destroying all sense of normalcy and security. Both the child’s life and your family’s may be severely affected by another’s careless, negligence, or misconduct. It’s a difficult and trying time, and it can be hard to keep track of all you need to do and why you need to do it. And there may be no second chance to get it right.
Why should I get help from a Decatur personal injury attorney?
Many judicial circuits in Illinois have local rules that specifically apply to the consideration and approval of minor’s settlements. These rules vary significantly from circuit to circuit and they can change fairly frequently. In addition to complying with local rules, the procedures for dealing with minor’s claims and settlements can even vary from judge to judge. What information must be gathered and presented to secure approval of a settlement may depend on which judge is assigned to the case. It’s a great advantage to have an attorney that knows the lay of the land and has had experience dealing with the local judges under the particular circuit court’s rules and procedures.
You don’t have to do this by yourself. Let a Decatur child injury lawyer help you get the justice you and your child deserves. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.