Car accidents are as terrifying as they are dangerous, and if your child has suffered an injury, the matter is that much more challenging and emotionally fraught.
If this is the position you find yourself in, the path forward is somewhat different than when an adult suffers an injury by someone else’s negligence in a car accident. You need a dedicated North Carolina car accident attorney with considerable experience successfully handling these complex claims on your side.
Separate Claims When Children Are Involved in a Car Accident
If you suffered an injury in a car accident, you would file a claim against the negligent driver for losses or legal damages, such as the following:
- Property damage to your car
- Medical expenses
- Lost income
- Pain and suffering
If your child, on the other hand, suffers an injury by a driver’s negligence, obtaining the compensation to which they are entitled will likely require two separate claims, including:
- One claim that you bring in pursuit of compensation for your child’s related medical bills
- A second claim brought on behalf of your child – either by you or a guardian ad litem (GAL) – in pursuit of compensation for their other legal damages – or losses
Just compensation for a child in a car accident is paramount, which makes consulting with a trusted car accident attorney early in the process critical.
Car Accident Settlement for a Child: Statute of Limitations
In North Carolina, adults generally have three years from the date of the accident that leaves them injured to file a lawsuit against the negligent driver. This is referred to as the statute of limitations.
When a minor suffers an injury by a motorist’s negligence, however, things work differently. The statute of limitations for a minor is paused or tolled until they turn 18, and it’s at this point that the three-year statute of limitation begins. While the minor can sue at any point prior to turning 18 – typically through a GAL or their parents – or prior to this deadline, they are not required to do so.
As the child’s parent, however, the timeframe for pursuing compensation for their related medical expenses is not paused, and you have only three years from the time of the injury-causing accident to file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver for these losses.
Car Accidents Involving a Child: Damages Sought
As your injured child’s parent, you will seek compensation for their medical costs directly through a claim filed with the negligent driver’s insurance provider.
It’s important to note, however, that children are considerably more vulnerable to sustaining a serious injury in car accidents, which can lead to very high medical costs. Further, if ongoing or future medical needs are required or expected, these expenses will need to be factored in.
In your child’s own claim – that they bring upon becoming an adult or through you or a GAL when they are still a minor – they can seek additional compensation that includes:
- Losses in terms of their ability to earn a living later in life
- Physical and emotional pain and suffering, which can be immense
Further, when the negligence of the at-fault driver is especially egregious, punitive damages that are intended to punish the driver rather than to compensate the claimant may apply.
If your child loses their life in the accident in question, the tragedy is amplified, and while no amount of compensation can make things right, obtaining just compensation for losses like the following can help your family push through the grief toward healing:
- Funeral and burial costs
- Any medical bills incurred prior to death
- Your emotional pain and suffering
- The cost of therapy
The Need for Court Approval
In order for a settlement involving a minor to be fully enforceable, it must be approved by the court. Without this approval, the minor – upon becoming an adult – can void the agreed-upon settlement.
Typically, court approval is achieved by conducting a hearing before a judge whose job is to ensure that the settlement upholds the child’s best interests.
Payment of Settlement Funds
In North Carolina, minors cannot receive their settlement funds until they reach adulthood – at the age of 18. Instead, these settlements are kept by the Clerk of the Superior Court in an interest-bearing common fund.
Another option is a structured settlement, which involves the funds being used to purchase a higher-earning annuity. In such an instance, you – as the parent – will decide the terms of the structured settlement.
Discuss Your Car Accident Claim with an Experienced North Carolina Attorney Today
If your child suffered an injury by a driver’s negligence, you are facing a very difficult path forward that can leave you feeling utterly unsure regarding how best to proceed.
Fortunately, the compassionate car accident attorneys at Horton & Mendez – serving both Wilmington and Leland, North Carolina – recognize the gravity of your situation and have the focus and drive to help.
Your child’s fullest recovery is paramount. Contact us or call us at 910-415-1088 for more information today.
Car Accident Case FAQs
After a minor is hurt in an accident, what should be done first?
If your child has suffered an injury in a car accident, the most important step you can take after seeking the medical attention that your child needs is to consult with a seasoned car accident attorney.
Can I afford a car accident attorney?
The good news is that most reputable car accident attorneys work on contingency, so you won’t owe anything until your claim settles or receives a court award.