According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there are about 9 million ER visits annually for children’s accidental injuries. About 12,000 of these injuries prove fatal. Kids being kids, sometimes their injuries are an inescapable outcome of living a normal life, nobody’s fault. But in some cases, negligence is what led to the accident, and some person or party can be found liable.
An exception Florida Florida law provides that children under the age of six cannot be found negligent. From the age of six and up juries evaluate a child defendant’s intelligence, cognitive development, and experience in determining whether his or her actions were reasonable in comparison with those of similar kids. These protections for minors don’t mean that a person injured due to a minor’s actions has little or no recourse. Plaintiffs can seek to hold a minor’s parents to account.
The more common scenario in child personal injury cases is when the child is the injured party. Minors, however, cannot press personal injury claims. An adult must do this on the child’s behalf, and it’s parents and legal guardians who have standing to sue on behalf of minors.
Making a personal injury claim on behalf of a minor starts a process which is significantly different from one triggered by an adult’s claim on behalf of himself or herself, or on behalf of another adult.
The court’s involvement is minimal in straightforward cases when parents or guardians accept a settlement amount of less than $15,000. In such cases, court approval is generally not required, and the court’s interest in the matter ends when the payment is accepted. For settlements in amounts greater than $15,000 parents and guardians must file a Petition for Approval of Settlement, detailing the case in all respects including legal fees. If the settlement being sought is in the $15,000 to $50,000 range, in most cases the court will require, at its discretion, that a formal guardianship is established to assure that recovered money is used in the child’s best interest. For settlements above $50,000, a legal guardianship is mandatory. Under a guardianship, recovered funds can be accessed only by court order, for purposes approved by the court.
Another feature of child injury cases, an especially tragic one, is that the age of the victim can present insurance companies with the prospect of extreme damages due to the many additional years of medical care a severely injured minor can require, as compared to an adult. Insurers are more powerfully incented to avoid responsibility. For this reason, it’s even more critical that parents and guardians of injured minors engage the most vigorous legal counsel possible, as soon as possible