Injuries To Kids: Who Is Liable?
As a parent, nothing can be as heart-wrenching as an injury to your child. Even if the injury wasn’t your fault, you still feel guilty because it is your duty to keep your child out of danger. But as children grow and mature, they gain more and more independence and spend less of their lives under the watchful eyes of their parents. They may get hurt outside of your watchful eye, especially if they are active and adventurous. However, many child injuries, whether gotten through bike accidents, dog bites, or swimming pool accidents, are not a child’s fault, and you may be able to file a personal injury claim to cover the costs of your child’s injuries and trauma.
To find out more about your legal rights and options after someone injures your child, contact the Seattle child injury attorneys of Pendergast Law. We have been representing Washington State injury victims and their families for more than four decades and will put all of our experience and knowledge to work on your case. We can explain the legal process to you and ensure your child’s right to compensation is protected. Schedule a free consultation today by calling our office at 888-539-9211.
What Are Some Common Injuries To Children?
While children can bounce back from minor injuries, their bodies are still in development and many injuries can have lasting effects on their lives. A child who suffers a traumatic brain injury may have difficulties in school, while spinal cord injuries can impact a child’s ability to engage in sports.
In our experience, we’ve seen many children suffer:
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Broken bones
- Severe lacerations
- Neck injuries
- Dog bites
- Eye injuries
When a child has suffered physical or emotional harm as a result of someone else’s negligence, the parents may be able to file a personal injury claim to hold the negligent party accountable. A claim can allow you and your family to cover the cost of your child’s medical bills, as well as any future treatment he or she requires.
How To File A Child Injury Claim
Child injury claims are unique when compared to other personal injury claims. For one, children cannot file a claim themselves until they turn 18 years old. This is because, under the law, minors cannot sign legal documents without a guardian’s assistance. However, you may petition the Washington state court to assign a guardian to handle the case and act as your child’s legal representative. Typically, this will be the child’s parent, but it can also be a grandparent, aunt, uncle, or older sibling.
In addition to requiring a guardian, child injury claims also have longer statutes of limitations. The majority of injury claims in Washington have a statute of limitations of two years from the date of the accident, but children have until their 20th birthday. This is because a child can officially begin the process of filing a personal injury claim when he turns 18, even if the injury occurred when he was a pre-teen. However, you should begin the process as soon as possible, as evidence may be lost if you do not act fast.
Lastly, child injury claims are not paid out immediately once the case is settled. First, whether or not your child’s case goes to trial, a judge must approve the settlement or jury verdict. If the judge agrees that the amount is fair, he will then divide the settlement among the various parties who benefit from the claim. For example, all compensation for medical expenses will be paid to your child’s hospital or doctors (if there are any pending bills) or to you if you paid for any treatment out of pocket. In addition, if your child has ongoing treatment, then the court may approve regularly scheduled payments to cover these costs. Beyond the medical payments, the rest of the settlement will be placed in a trust that will accrue interest until your child turns 18. At this point, he or she can access these funds, which will typically include money for pain and suffering, mental anguish, and loss of enjoyment due to the injury.
Filing A Claim In School And Day Care Accidents
School and day care accidents are some of the most complicated claims you can file in Seattle because of key legal differences between them. While schools are responsible for ensuring that the children in their care are kept safe at all times, they are also considered “political subdivisions.” Under this classification, they are generally immune from lawsuits unless a school district or one of its employees acted negligently and caused a student’s injury.
However, there are very specific procedures that must be followed. Because you are filing a claim with a government agency, you will need to file the claim within six months of the date of the accident. If you do not follow all procedures and meet every deadline, your claim may be thrown out. You will want to speak to an attorney as soon as possible to ensure that all regulations are followed.
Situations where you can file a claim against a Seattle public or charter school include:
- School bus accidents
- Dangerous playground equipment
- Swimming pool injuries and drownings
- Slip-and-fall accidents
- Dangerous toys
- Sports-related injuries
- Physical abuse from school staff
Daycares and private schools, on the other hand, are not political subdivisions and are not covered by the immunity provided to schools. Parents can file personal injury claims against negligent daycare workers who caused or allowed a child to be injured. The company running the daycare may also have a claim filed against it if management did not properly maintain equipment (such as playground structures), or if they knew the negligent employee had a history of being careless and continued to keep him or her on staff.
Filing A Claim For An Auto Accident
When a child is injured in a car accident, the family may file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver, whether he or she is partially or completely at fault for the injury. When it comes to pedestrian and bicycle accidents, however, it’s a bit more complicated.
Unlike children in cars, who cannot drive and are not responsible for whatever happens to them, children walking or riding bicycles have to follow the rules of the road. Pedestrians may only cross the street, for instance, when directed to do so by traffic lights or in a crosswalk. When pedestrians do not follow these rules, they may be found partially or fully at fault for an accident. The same is true with bicycle accidents. Bicyclists must signal at all times and follow the rules so they can safely share the road with drivers.
But when children are in these accidents, the courts will take a number of things into consideration before assigning fault. A very young child might not be found responsible if his bike slipped off the sidewalk and he was hit by a vehicle. This is because a young child is not expected to be fully aware of the dangers of vehicles. But if a child who was over 13 years old did not signal or wear his helmet while riding, he may be found partially at fault if he is hit by a vehicle. Older children are expected to anticipate these dangers and follow the rules of the road. There are no hard rules when it comes to these types of accidents, so speaking to a lawyer is your best bet.
Filing A Claim In Swimming And Drowning Accidents
Children have a MUCH higher risk of drowning. Lakes, oceans, and swimming pools are common places for swimming accidents to occur, but water parks and even bathtubs can be deadly. If they are not supervised properly, or if they encounter a defective piece of equipment, children can easily slip under the water and become trapped.
If a child almost drowns in a bathtub under the care of someone other than a parent or guardian, such as a babysitter, that caregiver may be found negligent. If he or she placed a young child in a bath and then left the room to go answer the phone, during which time the child slipped underwater and suffered brain damage, that would be negligence leading directly to the child’s injury.
Property owners with a pool may also be found negligent if a child drowns in their pool. This is true even if the property owners were not home at the time, or did not invite the child into their pool. Pools are considered attractive nuisances due to the fact that they attract children. The property owner, by law, must ensure that his pool is surrounded on all four sides by a tall fence and a gate, preferably one that latches from the inside that children cannot reach. When homeowners fail to take these precautions, they face a personal injury lawsuit if a child drowns in their pool.
In addition to caregivers and property owners, others could be found liable for a child’s swimming or drowning accident. They are:
- Manufacturers of equipment, such as diving boards, boats and swimming pools
- Those who installed or sold the swimming pool
- Water park owners and employees
- Companies that provide recreational entertainment, such as tour boat companies
- Municipalities that have not kept areas safe, such as public beaches
Swimming accidents, and particularly drowning accidents, can be devastating for the family left to deal with them. There may be compensation available for the child’s injuries, and families should hire a qualified attorney that can help them get it.
What Is A Child Injury Claim Worth?
Generally speaking, child injury claims include the same types of compensation as adult injury claims, with some slight differences. For one, because parents or guardians are responsible for taking care of the child’s medical bills and well-being, the medical costs of an accident can be awarded directly to them instead of the child. Parents can also receive regular compensation for long-term care, such as physical therapy, on a case-by-case basis. Essentially, if the child’s parents incurred any bills or damages as a result of the child’s injuries, then those damages can be awarded to the parent.
What remains for the child can include all noneconomic damages, such as pain and suffering and emotional trauma, as well as some economic damages. These can include lost wages if the child is legally employed at a part-time job. These damages typically won’t be awarded to the child right after the claim is settled. Instead, the court will place the funds in a trust that will become available to the child when he or she turns 18. These funds can also accrue interest, which may increase the value of the case.
Overall, a child injury claim can include:
- Medical bills, past and future
- Lost wages and potential future wages
- Costs of in-home care, including special equipment
- Vehicle modifications, such as wheelchair lifts
- Permanent injury or disability
- Costs of special schooling and education
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish and emotional duress
To determine the specific value of what you can recover, we will need to sit down with you and review the nature of your child’s injuries.
Schedule A Free Consultation Today
We at Pendergast Law sincerely hope you and your family never are in need of our services. But, should an unfortunate event occur and your child suffers an injury, please call our experienced and compassionate legal team for a free consultation. If we take you on as a client, we can launch an in-depth investigation into the circumstances of your child’s injury and advocate for full compensation.
Pendergast Law has been successfully representing Seattle area and Washington state injury victims and their families for nearly 30 years. We have the skill to settle your case without a lawsuit, but are well-prepared to take your case to trial if necessary. To discuss your case and any questions you might have with a Seattle personal injury attorney, call our law firm at 888-539-9211. For your child’s sake, don’t delay.