Being involved in an accident that you did not cause and getting hurt through someone else's negligence is a terrible thing to have to go through. One of the few things worse is when it was your child who was hurt. The injuries that children suffer in an accident can be very costly but can also drastically impede their development and ability to live their life to the fullest.
Just because you were not the one who was actually hurt, though, does not mean that you cannot take legal action to recover compensation for your child. Pennsylvania has legal mechanisms that exist precisely for parents to enforce their child's rights and pursue the interests of their injured children. The Philadelphia personal injury attorneys at Gilman & Bedigian know how these mechanisms work and can help you utilize them to protect your child's future, even after getting hurt in an accident.
Common Situations Where Children Get Hurt
Children can get hurt in a wide variety of situations. Some of these incidents have nothing to do with the victim being a child – they were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. Other situations, though, happen precisely because a child does not have the experience that an adult would have and therefore did not appreciate the danger they were facing.
- Car crashes. Car accidents are common events that can happen to anyone. For children who get hurt in a crash, their youth rarely has anything to do with the injuries that they might suffer.
- Medical malpractice. When a doctor or surgeon makes a mistake and their patient is a child at the time, it can amount to medical malpractice. While the child's age does not impact whether malpractice happens, it can drastically increase the severity of the injury they suffer, because internal injuries common to malpractice can impede their growth and development.
- Premises liability. Compared to adults, children are far more likely to intrude on someone else's property to check out something that they think is interesting. From garbage dumps to private batting cages to swimming pools, children can be attracted to anything that piques their curiosity. However, these interesting elements of someone else's property – the law calls them attractive nuisances – can be dangerous to children who do not know what to look for in order to keep safe and can end in a serious injury.
- Products liability. Similarly, children are less likely to recognize toys and other products that are dangerous or prone to breaking. If something breaks while a child is using it, the chances of them sustaining an injury are substantial, creating a products liability situation.
In each one of these cases, a child can get seriously hurt through very little fault of their own or while doing something that everyone agrees is an essential part of being a child. The personal injury law in Pennsylvania recognizes that it would be unfair to expect the child or the parents to cover the costs of the child's recovery, and so requires the person at fault to pay compensation.
Legal Damages When a Child is Injured
The amount of compensation Pennsylvania's personal injury law provides depends on the legal damages that the injuries have caused. Importantly, these damages are not constrained to just the costs of the medical attention that the child has received. For especially debilitating injuries, the legal damages that are accrued are much higher and include the following.
- Pain, suffering, and the loss of life's enjoyments. Children experience pain just like everyone else, and the trauma of the accident and their injuries can have a lasting impact on their lives. If the injuries that they experience in the accident were debilitating, they can also prevent a child from fully developing, or saddle them with a disability that prevents them from enjoying life to the fullest.
- Past and future medical expenses. Children are far more likely to suffer injuries that require extensive medical treatment years into the future. Even though the costs of that future treatment will only be incurred after the statute of limitations has passed, a reasonably accurate estimate of the costs of necessary care in the future can be recovered in a successful personal injury suit.
- Lost earning capacity. Even though children are too young to have, or even think of having a job, the injuries they can suffer in an accident can disable them in ways that prevent them from earning a living once they become adults. Because this was a result of someone else's negligence, it would only be fair for the negligent person to compensate a child for what he or she has lost in earning capacity.
Filing a Lawsuit on Behalf of Your Injured Child
Unfortunately, children are not able to pursue or even understand their legal rights and interests. Therefore, 231 Pa. Code Rule 2027 requires injured children and minors who have a right to compensation have a parent or guardian supervising their case. This is meant to ensure an injured child effectively pursues his or her rights and is not taken advantage of by the legal system and nefarious actors who try using the child's plight for their own gain. The only exception to this rule is if the claim is for less than $12,000 in compensation and will be handled by a magisterial judge – in those cases, the child is legally allowed to represent themselves.
Gilman & Bedigian: Personal Injury Lawyers Serving Philadelphia
If your child has been hurt in an accident in or near the city of Philadelphia, the personal injury lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian can help. Our attorneys have represented injured children and their parents in court before and understand both the difficult situation you find yourselves in, as well as the different procedures that are in place to protect a child in the legal system. With our help and knowledge, you can rest assured that your child's interests are being pursued to the best of our ability and that justice will be done. Contact us online.