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Shapiro, Lewis, Appleton & Favaloro
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Injuries to Children Involve Special Issues

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The Virginia (VA) law related to injuries to minors is different than when adults get injured. Some special issues arise in the sad situation of serious injury to a child in Virginia (VA). One of the issues when a kid gets hurt by someone else’s negligence is who is the client of the personal injury lawyer. The client is typically a parent who acts as representative for the child in hiring the personal injury attorney. If suit is required, then the name of the case is that of the adult acting as next friend for the child in a Virginia complaint involving an injury. In order to obtain the medical records and bills, the injury lawyer in Virginia (VA) and other states needs the signature of the parent to act on behalf of the child.

Normally, representing an injured kid is not that complicated. However, there are situations where it becomes more complicated in representing children in an automobile accident case, for example. One legal issue arises because of the number of non-intact families as a result of divorce. In this event, the Virginia (VA) personal injury lawyer needs to make sure that the parent who is acting for the child is actually a custodial parent. Hopefully, both parents, even if divorced, will look out for the best interest of their child in the event of an injury. However, sometimes this situation can be difficult if the parents really don’t get along.

Another special issue in representing children in injury cases, like a car wreck, is that a Virginia (VA) court must approve the infant settlement for an insurance claim involving a minor. This involves filing a special petition to the Virginia Circuit Court asking for approval of the settlement. The Virginia Circuit Court’s job is to make sure that the insurance settlement is fair and to decide how the money will be handled. In Virginia, we have various options that the court can use as to what to do with the personal injury proceeds for a child. For example, the court can hold the money until the child is 18. This is generally not that great an option because the personal injury proceeds will only earn minimal interest with the court’s receiver until they are 18. The other problem is the child gets all of the money when they are 18 and may end up not using it wisely at that time. Courts also have the option in Virginia to approve giving the money directly to the parents for use of the child sometimes requiring a bond and sometimes not. There are also options in a significant injury case involving a child to do structured settlements and other forms of trust to hold the money to best make it available in the future for the child’s needs. When I am doing a final disbursement of settlement proceeds in a Virginia (VA) personal injury case for a minor, I make sure that the parent is told at the time of the resolution that the money must be used for the health, welfare, and benefit of the child. Most parents don’t need this warning, but it confirms that I, as the personal injury lawyer, have told the parents about their obligations under the law.

Although there are many special issues related to representing a child in a Virginia (VA) automobile wreck or other injury case, one special rule has to do with the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations is the time within which a claim must be brought to court or it is ever lost. In Virginia, infants, meaning people under 18, generally have from two years after their 18th birthday to bring a claim for personal injury to court. There are special rules, however, for Virginia (VA) doctors and hospitals in the medical malpractice area. There is a much shorter time frame which depends upon the age of the child when hurt by the medical error. There are also special rules in Virginia (VA) about the deadlines for the parental claim for medical bills that were incurred by the parents on behalf of the injured client. The statute of limitations and other deadlines vary in different states outside of Virginia (VA) as well as depending upon the particular situation even in a Virginia (VA) injury case. So, if you have an injured child, please contact a competent attorney to make sure that you know what all these deadlines are so that you are not barred from making a claim on behalf of your child for the negligence and fault of another person. As a warning, I would tell you that please do not rely upon the information set forth above as legal advice about the statute of limitations, but make sure to consult me or someone else who does personal injury law to be sure that you know what specific deadlines apply to your child’s case. I also would recommend contacting a competent personal injury lawyer as soon as possible any time a child has been injured and may have a claim. You don’t want to wait for a variety of reasons. The deadlines for filing a lawsuit in court are not the only reasons to contact an attorney early. By contacting the lawyer as soon as possible after an injury to a child or an adult, you can make sure that the case is handled properly and all necessary investigation can be done before evidence is lost or memories fade.

I hope your child is never hurt in an automobile wreck or any other type of situation. However, I know from experience in doing personal injury law for 19 years that injuries to children, particularly in car wrecks, will occur on a regular basis. No matter how safe a driver you may be, you never know what somebody else on the road is going to do. Please keep your children buckled up in the car and drive defensively to avoid accidents.