This is a question that has a short and incomplete, but generally serviceable, answer. A much longer answer also exists, and it is important for parents and teenagers to understand the discuss the complexities with a knowledgeable Virginia personal injury lawyer.
Basically, Virginia sets the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury claim at two years from the date on which the injury occurred. This 24-month deadline for alerting an insurance company or responsible party of the intent to seek compensation and other monetary damages also applies to cases involving wrongful deaths.
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The applicable state law, Virginia Code section 8.01-243, extends the statute of limitation for birth injuries and medical malpractice cases involving infants to five years. Now, Virginia considers any person younger than 18 to be an infant. Yes, it only makes sense in a legal context in which any person incapable due to age, physical disability or mental incapacity is deemed an infant.
But wait: This gets even more complicated. Children younger than 18 can become legal adults by winning legal emancipation from their parents or guardians.
All that was not an aside. Understanding a little about who Virginia treats as an infant or an emancipated minor is key to wrapping one’s mind around the true complication in the state’s personal injury statute of limitation law for children.
Individuals who are incapacitated have two years from the date that they achieve or regain legal competence to file a personal injury claim for a harm done to them while they were actual or legally defined infants. For children in Virginia, this means they have until their 20th birthday to file insurance claims or civil lawsuits for injuries they suffered before their 18th birthday.
Most families will not want to wait several years to hold a negligent or reckless party accountable for injuring a son or daughter. Still, it can be important to know that taking legal action on behalf on an injured minor is not automatically precluded simply because two years ticked off the calendar.
A final consideration that plays into deciding when to file an insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit for an injured child involves what will happen to the settlement money or jury award. The money belongs to the child, but it can be placed in an account controlled by his or her parents, an account controlled by a trusted third party or placed in a trust that the child cannot access until becoming an adult. Consulting with a caring and experienced Virginia personal injury attorney will help a family decide which option or combination of options makes the most sense.
After graduating cum laude from law school at the University of Richmond, Seth practiced personal injury law out of Roanoke, Virginia and in Hampton, Virginia before joining Shapiro & Appleton where he represents personal injury clients in both state and federal courts. In 2016, he was named as a Virginia “Rising Star” lawyer by Super Lawyer’s magazine, an honor bestowed upon only 2.5% of attorneys in the state.