As a parent, your worst nightmare is likely that something could happen to injure one of your children. Unfortunately, such scenarios do occur and, when they do, it’s helpful to know what rights your child has if injured in an accident.
Child Car Accident Injury Statistics
According to 2021 data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 3% of the nearly 43,000 yearly traffic fatalities are children ages 14 or younger. An additional 162,000 children suffer injuries as a result of car crashes each year. This means that, roughly, each day in the U.S. 3 children are killed and another 445 are injured due to car accidents.
Fortunately or unfortunately, many of these injuries can be easily prevented with the use of a seatbelt or age-appropriate booster seat. Forty percent of children injured in car accidents are not buckled in, according to the NHTSA.
Other Causes of Child Injuries
Though car wrecks are one of the leading causes of injuries in children, other types of accidents can cause injuries or fatalities, too. While this is quite a grim topic to have to discuss, I think it is important to mention, as knowing what to be aware of is the first step to protecting your family from ever having to deal with a serious injury scenario.
Aside from vehicle-accident-related injuries, suffocation is another top contributor to child injuries and death, according to a CDC report updated in 2020. Water-related injuries and accidents (drownings) are also all too common, as are accidental poisonings. Burns and falls also injure thousands of children each year, with one study finding that approximately 8,000 children in the U.S. are treated for fall-related injuries in emergency departments every day. Accidental impacts, or being accidentally struck by an object or accidentally running into an object, are another potential cause of injury. This is especially common in children who play sports, and can cause serious injuries like concussions, muscle tears, or even broken bones.
Suing for Injuries to a Child
As you can see, there are an alarming number of ways that children can be injured. As parents, we do our best to make sure they are in capable hands with other responsible adults but, unfortunately, sometimes things happen, and someone else’s negligence can result in serious injury to your child.
This is an extremely stressful situation for any parent to deal with, as you are of course not only worried about the health of your child, but also how you’re going to afford the potentially exorbitant amount of medical bills that come with treating your child’s injury.
If another party is in some way responsible for your child’s injury, they deserve to be held accountable for their negligence, and your family deserves justice to recover from the impact of their actions.
What is the Statute of Limitations for Child Injuries?
In Georgia, the statute of limitations in personal injury claims is two years. However, when a child is injured, the statute doesn’t start to run until the child turns 18. So, if a six-year-old is injured in a car wreck, they would still be able to file a personal injury claim against the at-fault driver up until they are 20 years old.
Another statute of limitation to be aware of concerns the limitations for malpractice actions, as defined by O.C.G.A. § 9-3-73. There are various limitations periods that apply to a minor’s claim for medical malpractice. For example, if a minor is under five years old on the date the medical malpractice occurred, you have until two years from the date of the child’s fifth birthday to bring a medical malpractice action. If the child was over five years old when the malpractice occurred, then the standard two-year statute of limitations to file a medical malpractice claim applies. In addition, there are statutes of repose that apply to a minor’s claim as well in subsection (c) of this statute.
There are another specific limitations period to be aware of. For example, product liability claims in Georgia have a ten-year statute of repose that limits the claims that can be brought in a product liability lawsuit more than ten years after the product was first sold. See O.C.G.A. § 51-1-11. There is also a statute of repose that imposes additional limitations on claims arising out of an injury due to the construction, or improvement, of property. This limitation period is eight to ten years after substantial completion of the project, depending on when the injury occurs.
When a claim involves a government agency, there are requirements to send notices of the claims to the respective government agencies. These are called ante litem notices. The deadline for these notices varies depending on the government agency involved, but these deadlines can be as short as six months.
In short, if your child is injured, it is important to act quickly because various statutes may impose short limitation periods on the claims. You cannot rely solely on the fact that your child is a minor at the time of their injury as you may have to bring the claim before they turn 18 depending on the circumstances of the injury and the parties responsible for their injuries.
Who Brings Claims for a Child’s Injuries?
It is important to note that your child’s injury case and any claims you need to make to pay your child’s medical bills are two separate cases. You should not plan to use your child’s settlement money to pay their medical bills.
Rather, the parents of a child have their claim for medical expenses against the at-fault party. This is because, under Georgia law, a child’s parents are responsible for paying their child’s medical bills. In this case, note that the statute of limitations on your ability to file a claim for medical expenses is only two years. For you as an adult, this does not mean two years after the child turns 18 as previously discussed, but two years from the day of the incident.
If filing a claim when the child is still a minor, you as the parent or guardian of the child are the one who has to make a claim for the child’s personal injury case as minors do not have the capacity to bring a lawsuit in their own name. Depending on the specifics of the injury and the amount awarded to you by the court, you may have a few financial decisions to make for your child, as well.
Managing Injury Settlements for a Minor
In the state of Georgia, GA Code § 29-3-3 (which was recently amended in 2022), states that, if the settlement amount is $25,000 or less, the child’s natural guardian or parent can settle the claim without court approval and hold and manage the money for them.
However, if the settlement is over $25,000, there are additional requirements. First, court approval is required for settlements that exceed $25,000. If the case settles before a lawsuit is filed, the probate court would have to approve the settlement. If a lawsuit was filed, then the trial court can approve it.
Additionally, the parents may have to be appointed conservators to receive the settlement funds if they are above $25,000. In many cases, the funds will be placed into a structured settlement that will pay out to the minor after they reach the age of 18. This avoids the need for the parents to become conservators.
The different requirements for court approval make it extremely important for you to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible if your child is injured.
Don’t Let an Injury Derail Your Child’s Life
If you or someone you know has a child who has been injured by someone else’s negligence, contact The Champion Firm
today for a free case consultation.
Our attorneys have experience handling many different kinds of injury claims, including those affecting children. While this is not a circumstance we wish upon any family, our firm understands that these unfortunate scenarios do happen, and our compassionate attorneys work diligently with families to ensure the at-fault parties are held accountable and justice is served. For more information, reach out to a Marietta personal injury lawyer.
Darl Champion is an award-winning personal injury lawyer serving the greater Metro Atlanta area. He is passionate about ensuring his clients are fully compensated when they are harmed by someone’s negligence. Learn more about Darl here.