My Child Was Injured in a Personal Injury Accident: What Are My Options?

If you have ever been injured in an accident caused by another person's negligence, you understand how long the road to recovery can be. The concern can be even more significant when a child becomes injured in a personal injury accident. When another person's negligence results in an injured child, the child deserves compensation for their medical expenses, pain and suffering, and more. If your child has been injured in a personal injury accident, understanding your child's rights and the process of recovering compensation can help you significantly.

Can I Sue if My Child Was Hurt in a Personal Injury Accident?

The short answer to this question is yes. Minors are entitled to compensation for injuries they suffered in car accidents and other personal injury accidents caused by another person's negligence. Just as an adult would have the right to bring a lawsuit against a drunk driver for causing his injuries, a child can do the same through a guardian. 

A Guardian Can Bring a Lawsuit on Behalf of a Child

Children under 18 do not have a legal right to bring a lawsuit against someone else or be sued themselves. However, children can sue for damages with the help of a Guardian ad Litem (GAL). A Guardian ad Litem is a third-party individual who will represent the child's best interests and pursue compensation for the child's injuries. If you are a child's parent or legal guardian, you can bring a lawsuit on behalf of the child for economic and non-economic damages.

The Two Claims a Guardian Needs to Bring

When a child becomes injured in a personal injury lawsuit, a parent or guardian can bring two types of legal claims. The parent typically brings the first type of claim for the recovery of medical bills, expenses, and treatment of the minor child. When necessary, these expenses can be recovered through a lawsuit in the parent or legal guardian's name. A child can also bring the second claim through their Guardian ad Litem (GAL).

Compensation for Children Injured in Personal Injury Accidents

What happens when a child's guardian successfully brings a lawsuit for compensation? The child will be able to access the compensation once they reach the age of 18. Under North Carolina law, the settlement must be kept in an interest-bearing common fund by the Clerk of the Superior Court. The clerk does charge a fee to hold the funds. However, the small amount of interest that accrues will typically cover the cost of the fee.

Structured Settlements

There is an exception to the requirement that the settlement is held in a trust. This exception is called a structured settlement. Instead of the clerk holding the funds until the child turns 18, the funds can be used to purchase an annuity. Annuities can be more favorable than common funds because the interest is usually higher with annuities. The parent or guardian representing the child can decide the structured settlement terms.

Who Can Serve as a Guardian ad Litem?

North Carolina courts will appoint Guardian ad Litem to represent minors and protect their interests. The Guardian ad Litem is also responsible for ensuring that any settlement agreement is fair for the child. The court will only appoint an adult who is a disinterested third party to act as the Guardian ad Litem. Typically it is a family member, such as a grandparent or an attorney. Minor children cannot make their own decisions, so a settlement will be final and enforceable once the judge has approved it.

Insurance Company Settlements

Insurance companies will typically try to settle personal injury claims with a minor by offering to give the parent a check without judicial approval. However, if the parties do not seek judicial approval in court, the minor may not be bound by the terms of the unimproved settlement when they reach 18. Most insurance companies require judicial approval when the injury to the child is significant, typically settlements over $3,000.

Reach Out to an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney in North Carolina

 In North Carolina, the parent or guardian of a minor child can pursue compensation for the injured child after an accident. However, the process is more complex. Suppose your child has been injured in an accident in North Carolina. In that case, you will benefit from working with an experienced attorney who can guide you through the process and negotiate the best settlement possible. Contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC, today to schedule your free case evaluation. 

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