Child Injured in a Car Accident
For many parents, the idea of their beloved child being injured in a car accident is the stuff of nightmares. Unfortunately, far too many parents find themselves in this exact position.
Was your child injured in a car crash? If your child was injured in Delaware in a car accident caused by another person or entity's negligence, they may be entitled to compensation for a wide range of related damages. But how do you file a personal injury claim for a child? Before you take legal action, here's what you should know.
Child Injuries Associated With Car Accidents
Children are particularly vulnerable to injury in the event of an accident. In fact, even safety features meant to protect vehicle occupants — such as seat belts and airbags — can be deadly for children if misused. Some of the most common injuries associated with a car accident involving a child include:
- Lacerations and contusions
- Broken or crushed bones
- Concussions and traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)
- Lost or amputated limbs
- Spinal cord injuries
- Chest injuries
- Psychological trauma
Even when a child in a car accident is fortunate enough to escape with only minor physical injuries, they may deal with long-lasting accident-related psychological trauma. For some children, being involved in a car accident can cause depression, anxiety, nightmares, insomnia, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other conditions.
Non-Traffic Related Child Car Accidents and Injuries
Children can be victims of serious car accidents, even when they aren't passengers in a vehicle. Young people are often struck by vehicles and injured while walking, bicycling, skateboarding and rollerblading. Backover accidents — where a vehicle backs over a child standing behind it — are also common. Without a strong exterior cage to protect them, child victims hurt in these types of accidents often have significant laceration, contusion and abrasion injuries. Dental and facial injuries, internal bleeding and organ damage are other possible injuries.
Potential Damages in Child Car Crash Cases
The health care needed to help a child heal after being seriously injured in a car accident doesn't come cheap. However, Delaware law allows personal injury victims to pursue compensation for a wide range of economic and non-economic damages.
Economic damages seek to compensate the child and their family for quantifiable losses, such as reasonable related medical expenses.
Non-economic damages have no monetary value and, as a result, are more difficult to quantify. Examples of potentially available non-economic damages for the child include:
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Scarring or disfigurement
- Reduced quality of life
- Loss of enjoyment of life
In cases where the liable party's conduct is deemed particularly egregious, the victim may also be entitled to punitive damages. Rather than attempting to compensate the victim for an economic or non-economic loss, punitive damages punish the defendant and deter similar behavior.
Steps to Take If Your Child Was Injured in a Car Accident
What should you do if your child is in a car accident? These are the steps to take:
1. Thoroughly Examine the Child for Injuries
No matter how minor the crash or accident might seem, thoroughly examine the child for any injuries. If you were also in the accident, first check yourself for injuries before checking your child. Notify the police to report the accident but also for an ambulance if your child is injured.
2. Have a Medical Professional Examine the Child
Even if an ambulance doesn't take your child to the hospital, you should seek medical attention for your child as soon as possible. Waiting too long can worsen any injuries your child has and may impact the personal injury claim you make on the child's behalf.
Once law enforcement leaves the scene of the accident, you may want to visit an emergency care facility so your child can be treated and their injuries can be recorded.
3. Follow up With a Doctor If Necessary
If you notice any other symptoms or signs of injury in your child after the initial visit to emergency care, then you should make a follow-up appointment with a doctor. You may also need to make additional appointments with a doctor depending on the severity of your child's injuries.
4. Hire a Personal Injury Attorney
A personal injury attorney can guide you through the legal process of settling a claim. An experienced attorney in Delaware will be familiar with the laws in the state and what the exceptions may be for minors.
What to Expect After My Child Was in a Car Accident
What should you expect after you are in a car accident involving your child? Following a car accident, the most important consideration is your child's health and wellbeing. The child should be immediately checked after an accident. Young children, in particular, cannot express themselves or articulate their pain to an adult.
Examine the child for visible signs of injuries and communicate these signs to a physician so you can identify the possible source of the child's injuries. Seek medical attention for your child immediately so a physician who regularly treats children can evaluate them.
Due to adrenaline that follows after an accident, injuries don't always manifest right away, so continue to pay attention to your child for days and weeks following the incident. Watch for unusual characteristics or behaviors, such as wincing, confusion, nightmare, limping, lack of energy, unusual crying or excessive sleep. If you notice any of these signs, take your child back to the doctor and let them know about the symptoms you've noticed.
Beyond the health and wellbeing of your child, if your child was in a car seat when the crash occurred, the insurance company generally replaces the car seat automatically. This is an act of caution to protect the child in the future in case the car seat was damaged in the accident.
Delaware Comparative Negligence Laws Pertaining to Children
The comparative negligence laws in Delaware allow car accident victims to sue at-fault drivers. However, the amount of compensation you may receive is affected by the percentage of fault you are determined to have had in the accident.
If you are more than 50% responsible for the accident, you will not be eligible to receive compensation. Essentially, if you are equally responsible for the accident or your negligence was greater than that of the other driver, you do not have the right to sue the other driver for damages in Delaware.
On the other hand, if you are less than 50% responsible, you may be able to sue the other driver who is primarily responsible for the crash. Your compensation will be affected by the percentage of responsibility you had in the accident. For example, if you were 20% at fault, your compensation will be reduced by 20%. If you were to receive a settlement of $40,000, but you were 20% at fault for the car accident, your compensation would be reduced by $8,000.
In a personal injury case, children will not be held to the same standards as adults. Children are expected to act as and use the same care as a reasonably careful child of the same age, knowledge and experience, while adults are expected to use the same care as an ordinary reasonable person. Very young children are considered to be completely incapable of comparative negligence.
Statute of Limitations in Delaware for Personal Injury Cases Involving Children
Is there a limit on the amount of time you have to file a car accident claim for a child? Typically, the statute of limitations for a personal injury in Delaware is two years from the date the injuries were sustained. For a child personal injury case, the statute of limitations gives a minor three years after their 18th birthday to make a personal injury claim.
Filing a Car Accident Personal Injury Lawsuit in Delaware
If your child was injured in a car accident caused by another driver's negligence, your child may be entitled to compensation. However, the time to act is limited. Waiting too long to take legal action may allow evidence to be lost or contaminated, witnesses to move or forget what they saw or the time for you to file a claim to expire. Don't let this happen to your child. Contact a skilled personal injury attorney today.
Consult an Attorney About Your Car Accident Case
Navigating Delaware's personal injury legal system on your child's behalf can be both frustrating and confusing. Fortunately, the knowledgeable attorneys with the Morris James Personal Injury Group can help child car accident victims and their families understand their legal rights and options and guide them through each and every step of the personal injury litigation process.
Was your child injured in a devastating car accident? Do you have questions about seeking compensation on your injured child's behalf? Take legal action before it's too late. Contact us at the Morris James Personal Injury Group today to schedule an appointment for a free initial consultation in which you can discuss the details of your case with a knowledgeable member of our legal team.
Article was updated on 6/26/2020 by The Morris James Personal Injury Group