The child injury lawyers at Axelrod and Associates understand the trauma and worry that parents face when their minor child has been seriously hurt in a car accident or other incident.
When a child’s injuries were caused by someone else’s negligence, the parents have the additional concern of deciding who was responsible for hurting their child, how to sue on behalf of their child, and how to safeguard their child’s financial recovery once they receive a settlement.
Below, we will provide an overview of child injury lawsuits in SC, including:
- Common causes of child injuries in the Myrtle Beach area,
- Who is liable for child injuries,
- How to file a lawsuit on behalf of a minor child,
- When minor settlements (settlements on behalf of a child) require court approval, and
- How to safeguard your child’s financial settlement until they turn 18.
Common Causes of Child Injuries in Myrtle Beach, SC
Children are active, love to explore, and may not have the experience required to avoid dangerous situations that could hurt them. Because of this, there are often situations where a child’s unintentional injuries might be no one’s fault, and there may not be a defendant to sue.
On the other hand, when a child’s injuries are caused by someone else’s negligence, gross negligence, or intentional actions, the child has the same right to file a claim for damages that an adult would have – and, in some cases, a child has more rights than an adult would (for example, in an “attractive nuisance” case).
Common causes of child injuries that may result in liability where the child is entitled to recover damages include:
- Auto accidents – when a child is injured due to someone else’s negligence while in a motor vehicle, the child is entitled to sue and recover full and fair compensation for their injuries,
- Injuries caused by a parent or other relative – a child who is injured because of a relative’s negligence, for example, in a car accident when a parent is driving, is entitled to sue the relative (even if it is their parent) and recover damages for their injuries,
- Child drownings and swimming pool injuries – even when a child trespasses to gain access to a swimming pool, the owner or manager of the pool may be liable under a theory of “attractive nuisance,”
- Unsafe toys – manufacturers, sellers, or distributors of unsafe toys may be liable for damages when their product injures or kills a child,
- Dog bites – children are often attacked by dogs or other animals in their neighborhoods or when they unknowingly approach the animal to pet them,
- Amusement parks – in some cases, the owner of an amusement park or water park may be liable for injuries suffered by children that are caused by unsafe conditions,
- Playgrounds – unsafe playground equipment may be a basis for liability against a school, daycare, or apartment complex owner, or
- Any injury that is caused by another person’s negligence or intentional acts.
Determining Liability for Child Injuries
Who is liable for the conditions that caused a child’s injury?
Depending on the circumstances, the location of the accident, and the cause of the accident, your child’s injury lawyer may be able to file a lawsuit to recover damages from:
- The owners of an amusement park, waterpark, or playground,
- The owners or handlers of a dog or other dangerous animal,
- A property owner who did not put sufficient safeguards in place to prevent children from accessing a swimming pool or other hazard – even if the child is trespassing,
- Companies that design, manufacture, distribute, or sell unsafe toys,
- The driver of another vehicle that caused a car accident that injured the child,
- The parents of a child when the parent caused a car accident that injured the child, or
- School or daycare staff, bus drivers, employees, or government agencies who are responsible for unsafe conditions that caused the child’s injuries.
The Procedure for Filing a Lawsuit on Behalf of a Child
A minor child cannot file their own lawsuit, which means it is up to the child’s parent or guardian to consult with a child injury lawyer and begin legal proceedings after their child has been involved in an accident.
If the child’s parent or guardian does not file the lawsuit (or make the claim) on behalf of the child, the child can still bring the claim on their own behalf once they turn 18, but they will only have one year to do so.
Compensation for Child Injuries
What is a minor child entitled to recover in a lawsuit for damages?
Children are entitled to the same types of damages that adults can recover in a personal injury lawsuit, including:
- Medical expenses and future medical expenses including doctor’s bills, hospital bills, EMS bills, costs of surgeries, medical equipment, and long-term care when needed,
- Loss of future earnings – although the child may not have any lost wages at the time of the accident, if the child’s injuries will affect their ability to earn income in the future, the defendant must compensate the child for the loss of future earning capacity,
- Scarring and disfigurement,
- Pain and suffering,
- Emotional distress including damages for diagnosable emotional or mental injuries like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD),
- Wrongful death damages, and
- Punitive damages when appropriate.
There may be some differences in the money that a minor child receives in their settlement, however.
For example, the costs of medical expenses may be reimbursed to the parents or guardian who was responsible for paying the child’s medical bills. The child may not be entitled to lost wages (although they may be entitled to loss of future income for long-term disabilities). And a child’s compensation for pain and suffering or emotional trauma may be greater than it would be for an adult in similar circumstances.
Minor Settlements may Require Court Approval
Under SC Code § 16-5-433, a minor settlement may require court approval depending on the amount of compensation the child will receive (after all reimbursements and costs have been deducted).
- If the child will receive more than $25,000, the circuit court must approve the settlement,
- If the child will receive less than $25,000, the circuit court or the probate court must approve the settlement unless a conservator has been appointed, or
- If the child will receive less than $2500, court approval is not required and there is no need for a conservator.
In any case, the parent or guardian must take steps to safeguard the minor child’s proceeds until they turn 18.
In most cases, this is done by appointing a conservator to manage the funds (in many cases, the conservator can be the parent) or by negotiating a structured settlement where the proceeds from the settlement are placed in an annuity that will begin making payments once the child reaches the age of 18.
If your child has been injured in a car crash or other accident, make sure you know the procedure for filing a lawsuit on behalf of your child, the damages your child is entitled to receive, and how to handle their settlement proceeds.