Car accidents are always distressing. The emotional anxiety is even worse when children are injured in the collision. Although car seats and other safety features enhance the safety of children when travelling by car, crashes involving children often feature serious injuries.
Just as with adult passengers, children have the right to compensation when injured in a car accident. However, the car accident claims process, requirements and guidelines for minors differ from those of an adult. There are many reasons for this.
- Minors can’t legally sign contracts
Minors are not legally able to sign a binding contract. They therefore, cannot pursue their own case for compensation let alone agree to a settlement with the insurance company. Any claim for compensation or settlement must be filed (or signed for) by their legal guardian on their behalf.
- The statute of limitations doesn’t apply
The statute of limitations for personal injury cases doesn’t apply to minors in most cases. In most states, the statute of limitations begins to kick in when the child has achieved legal status (i.e. is 18 years old in most states). The case can therefore be filed any time after the accident while the child is still considered a minor.
This is good news as many injuries aren’t always fully apparent immediately after the accident. Some injuries such as concussions manifest after several days, weeks or even months.
- The settlement may have to go through the courts
Some insurance companies may prefer to have the claim go through the courts. This is done to ensure that the court approves the settlement. If the claim is taken to court, then your child will have a lawyer appointed to represent him and may also have a guardian ad litem. Their job is to ensure that the child’s best interests are considered throughout the claims process. They are charged with the responsibility of investigating the circumstances of the accident and the injuries. They also ensure that the insurance company offers a fair sum of money that will cover present and future injury related expenses.
- The settlement may not be awarded in full
If the child is awarded a large sum of money, he may not receive it all at once. The guardian ad litem may recommend that the compensation be paid through a structured settlement. This may include small payments until the child is 18. In some structured settlements, the child is only given a lump sum when he is considered mature enough to handle it. In other situations, the payments may continue for a number of years after the child reaches the age of majority.