The only thing that is worse than getting hurt by someone else's negligence is when it is your child who gets hurt by someone else's negligence. Regardless of the situation, seeing your child get hurt and put on the road to recovery where he or she will face numerous difficult and painful treatments can be traumatizing as a parent. It can also be incredibly costly, especially as there will be nothing that you will not do to help them overcome their injuries.
In these cases, it can be even more helpful than normal to have a skilled personal injury attorney at your side. Injuries to children are more complex than identical injuries to adults because children have their entire lives ahead of them and are more likely to need ongoing medical care to make a full recovery. The personal injury lawyers at the Baltimore law office of Gilman & Bedigian understand these unique factors that arise when the victim is a child and can help recover the compensation they need and deserve from the person who hurt them.
Situations Where Children Can Get Hurt
There are, of course, countless ways for children to get hurt because of someone else's negligence. However, some happen more than others or lead to injuries that are so severe that, even though they are quite rare, are still worth examining. Still, others create unique differences in the law, precisely because the victim is underage.
One of the most common ways for children to be the victim of someone else's negligence is when someone else causes a car accident and one of the people hurt is underage. While many newer vehicles on the road have taken great strides to keep passengers safe with novel safety features, older vehicles or less expensive models are less protective in a crash.
Even the safest car, though, cannot keep everyone out of harm's way in an especially violent or high-speed accident. This is particularly a problem in the city of Baltimore, which is surrounded and crisscrossed with busy highways that are full of tractor trailers and other trucks.
Everything that we buy in the U.S. and in Baltimore can break. As time goes on, in fact, products seem designed to break more quickly than before, with more and more important pieces being made of cheap plastic rather than more durable materials.
Unfortunately, children rarely know to pay attention to these defects and are therefore more likely to be using something in a way that can make it break. If it does, it can hurt them. Sometimes, these injuries can be quite severe, especially when the defective product is one of the following toys or devices that children are likely to use or rely on:
- Car seat
- Baby toy
- Sporting equipment
Children are infamous for going onto someone else's property if it means having fun. So infamous, in fact, that the personal injury and premises liability law in Maryland recognizes this tendency. Because trespassing is such an integral and known aspect of being a child, though, the law puts responsibility not on children for keeping away from interesting and dangerous aspects of someone else's property, but on the owner of that property for keeping children safe.
This is a unique aspect of premises liability law, which usually puts more of the responsibility for keeping safe on the person who is visiting someone else's property if they are an adult. For children, though, if they are drawn by an attractive nuisance on someone else's land and get hurt by it, liability can fall not on the child for trespassing, but on the property owner for leaving something so interesting, so dangerous, and so likely to attract a child's attention unprotected. This is meant to help children recover from injuries suffered because property owners could not be bothered with keeping their premises safe in the foreseeable event that a child should wander on their property to explore something new.
While less common than other types of injuries, children can nevertheless be severely hurt by medical malpractice in Baltimore. These types of injuries, because they are internal in nature and are more likely to lead to drastically severe complications, are often far worse than those that a child can suffer in other circumstances.
To make matters worse, children can be the victim of medical malpractice in even the most mundane situations, like routine check-ups at the doctor's office or at the dentist's. Even in the first few months after birth, young children and babies can be susceptible to a doctor's mistakes if the doctor misses an important diagnosis and leaves the child with a severe medical condition that is untreated for entirely too long.
Treatment for Children's Injuries are Different
When a child gets hurt, the types of care and treatment that they need to overcome their injuries are different than what an adult needs. This is especially true if the child is not yet a teenager, as their bodies are still developing. In these cases, certain injuries that would not be very serious for adults can be devastating for children because they can affect how a child will develop in the years to come.
As a result, injured children can need a different set of treatments for their injuries than adults would, even if they were hurt in the same ways.
For example, children who have been severely hurt in an accident can require different kinds of surgeries than an adult would need, because of the long-term impact that the injury can have on the child's life. Additional surgeries – even procedures months or years out into the future – can be necessary to build on the successes of earlier ones or to minimize expected problems as the child grows up.
However, there are also treatments that hurt children may be less likely to need than adults, precisely because they are not yet fully developed. Physical therapy is a good example. While adults – particularly the elderly – often need extensive physical therapy to return to their earlier form after a debilitating injury, children occasionally need less attention as their bodies are better able to heal and recover from an injury.
A Child's Legal Damages
Any time a child gets hurt in an accident that was caused by someone else's negligence or their poor conduct, the young victim has suffered legal damages. Luckily, in the state of Maryland, those legal damages go way beyond just the cost of the medical care that the child has already received. Instead, the personal injury law in our state aims to make children and other victims whole, once again, or at least as close to how they were before the accident that caused their injuries.
For children with their entire lives ahead of them, the legal damages that they suffer in an accident in Baltimore are often slightly different than an adult's legal damages, particularly in the following ways.
Future Medical Care
While all accident victims can recover the costs of their prior medical care in a successful personal injury lawsuit, it is in the costs of future medical care that the differences between a child victim and an adult victim become more apparent.
For child victims, the costs of future medical care are likely to be far more than for adults, because children who have been hurt have more of their lives ahead of them, and are more likely to need medical procedures well into the future to ensure they are on the correct path to recovery. This is especially true of debilitating injuries that keep children in constant need of medical attention, as they will face the costs of that care for far longer than an adult would.
Loss of Life's Enjoyments
Many people are familiar with the fact that you can recover compensation for your pain and suffering in a personal injury lawsuit. What fewer people realize is that your legal damages for your pain and for your suffering are distinct elements.
Your legal damages for your suffering are meant to compensate you for the life enjoyments that you have lost because of your injuries. Needless to say, when children and adults suffer identical injuries, that loss of life's enjoyments will be far more severe for the younger victim.
Loss of Earning Capacity
While children are still far from earning a living or an income, they are nevertheless still able to recover compensation for the loss of earning capacity that an especially severe injury has caused them. In cases where the injury is so debilitating that it will prevent a child from ever entering the workforce – whether it was a traumatic brain injury or an injury that led to paralysis – this loss of earning capacity can be complete and lifelong. Because the injury was not the fault of the child, personal injury law in Maryland puts the costs of the child's suffering on the hands of the person who caused the injury.
Filing a Lawsuit on Behalf of Your Child
Unfortunately, when a child gets hurt, the procedures that are necessary for them to pursue the compensation they need and deserve are a little more complicated than when an adult is the one who got hurt. The reason for this is simple: Children are legally unable to make binding decisions when they are important, including decisions that impact their legal rights. Therefore, they are unable to pursue a personal injury action on their own. They need a parent or legal guardian to do it, on their behalf, until the beginning of the day they turn 18 years old.
Lawsuits on the behalf of a child are known in Maryland as a next friend lawsuit and are allowed by Maryland Rule 2-202. However, not just any adult can sue on behalf of an injured child. Maryland Rule 2-202 limits who can sue, depending on who has custody of the child:
- When both parents have custody, either parent has the power to initiate a lawsuit on the behalf of their injured child.
- When only one parent has custody, that parent has the exclusive right to file a next friend lawsuit on behalf of their child for one year after the injury. Once this year has expired, any person who has an interest in the child's well-being – including but not necessarily limited to the non-custodial parent – can file the lawsuit. However, that person has to notify the custodial parent that they intend to file the lawsuit on the child's behalf before doing so.
Issues of custody also impact how a next friend lawsuit can end, as well. The vast majority of personal injury cases settle out of court – especially those that involve young victims, as the parties responsible rarely want to give a jury the opportunity to decide how much compensation the child deserves – but next friend lawsuits on behalf of a minor child can only be settled by particular people. Additionally, the courts in Maryland are wary of letting settlements happen until they are positive that the settlement is in the child's best interests.
Importantly, the statute of limitations – the law that requires personal injury cases to be filed within three years of the injury – is more accommodating for injured children than it is for adults. If the victim was a minor, instead of beginning to toll on the date of the injury, the statute of limitations will only begin to toll on the day the child turns 18.
Gilman & Bedigian Help Injured Children in Baltimore
The personal injury attorneys at the Baltimore law offices of Gilman & Bedigian strive to legally represent injured children both in and out of the courtroom. By advocating on their behalf, we can ensure that they receive the compensation they need to recover from their injuries and that they deserve after being put through so much pain and suffering by someone else's negligence. Contact us online for the legal help you need to make sure your child receives the care and help they need after such a terrible accident.