Expecting kids to sail through childhood without experiencing their share of falls, bumps, or skinned knees is unrealistic, and younger children tend to be especially accident-prone. When minor children experience a more serious or debilitating injury, however, many parents aren’t prepared for the short-term financial and emotional strain that such a situation can place on the entire family. There also may not be any way to reasonably anticipate how the injury might continue to affect children even after they reach adulthood.
Because accidents are so often regarded as “just part of being a kid”, parents may not realize that a lot of the injuries children experience could have been prevented or mitigated if others had not been negligent in some way. As a result, they may never realize they have a legal case that could lead to compensation for them or their child.
Personal injury cases generally share the same foundational claims regardless of whether the victim is an adult or a child, but there are also some critical differences that can present challenges for anyone who is not experienced in handling cases that specifically involve children.
Grounds for a Child Injury Case
On a fundamental level, child injury cases are similar to personal injury claims for adults in that they provide legal recourse for individuals who believe that the injuries they suffered occurred due to another person’s negligence. If they can demonstrate that an injury was preventable or would have been less severe if the defendant had adhered to certain legal obligations, then they can be awarded damages to compensate for losses incurred as a result of the injury.
There is some overlap in what kinds of injuries can be considered grounds for a successful case--particularly in motor vehicle accidents, since many child passengers are involved in accidents along with adult drivers. Other incidents more commonly involve children because they are comparatively more vulnerable to injury. Some of these incidents include:
- Abuse by a caretaker - If a child was injured due to negligence while in the care of a babysitter or a daycare facility. the individual caretaker or entity can be held legally responsible. More serious cases of caretaker abuse are often accompanied by criminal charges.
- Animal attacks or bites - If pets are improperly restrained or poorly supervised by their owners, they can seriously injure a child. Even small dogs are capable of causing major trauma to kids who are younger or lack the necessary ability to protect themselves. Animal bites also carry a greater risk of infection compared to some other types of wounds, which can compound the physical, emotional, or cosmetic damage caused by the initial attack.
- Pool injuries or drownings - Pools or water parks that are not built, maintained, or supervised according to code can result in dangerous conditions, particularly for children. Kids can suffer slip-and-fall injuries, contract waterborne diseases, or even drown in such environments.
- Defective products - Toys or other products made for children may cause injury if they are affected by design or manufacturing flaws. Corporations with defective products could be liable for such injuries when their own negligence can be demonstrated. In some cases, the person or business that sold the product may also be legally responsible.
- Accidents at playgrounds or amusement parks - Such recreational or entertainment venues often post “play at your own risk” signs or require signed waivers to fend off excessive injury claims. Participation in these activities is voluntary and does come with some level of inherent risk, but injuries that occur due to negligence rather than “bad luck” are not covered by a waiver or a posted warning.
Compensation for child injury cases is not usually awarded in the same manner as it is in personal injury cases involving adults, due to the fact that life circumstances for adults and children differ in several important ways.
- Children are not generally employed by anyone, so they do not qualify for compensation of lost wages as a working adult would. This can result in lower damages awarded to children on average. One possible exception to this rule is a case where plaintiffs can demonstrate that a child will experience lifelong impairment as a result of the injury and may be unable to work later in life.
- Conversely, child injury cases may lead to relatively higher compensation for pain and suffering compared to amounts awarded to adults. Children are often more vulnerable to emotional trauma due to the fact that they are still developing and lack the resources and understanding of mature adults. This emotional damage may also persist into adulthood.
- Financial compensation for costs that have already been covered by the parents or legal guardians (such as medical expenses) will likely be awarded directly to them, rather than the child victim. Damages awarded for claims such as pain and suffering or future lost wages will be placed in a trust or investment account until the victim turns 18 and is legally eligible to receive those funds directly.
- If a child was injured while involved in excessively rough or dangerous play, or was found to be breaking known rules or ignoring instruction, then it becomes more difficult to receive compensation for the injury.
Laws concerning child injury cases vary from state to state. An effective attorney should have a solid understanding of how to handle child injury cases under Texas law.
- In Texas, unemancipated minors cannot enter legal contracts on their own. This means that injury claims involving underage, dependent children must be filed on their behalf by a parent or guardian.
- As covered in the previous section, compensation may be awarded directly to the parents or placed into a dedicated account until the child turns 18. In general, any funds disbursed directly to the parents are to compensate for medical expenses or costs that the parents have already paid.
- The normal statute of limitations for Texas personal injury cases is two years from the date of the accident. That deadline still applies to a parent or guardian who is seeking compensation for medical expenses or related costs incurred as a result of an injury to their child. Claims that would be considered damages directly experienced by the child victim, such as losses due to emotional distress, can be filed up to two years after the child turns 18--no matter how long before that the accident occurred.
If you believe that you have a child injury claim in the state of Texas, Drew Bivona can help you get the help you and your child deserve. Call or visit our office in the heart of Houston for a free consultation.