If your child was injured in an accident, you probably have a lot of questions. What are his or her rights? How do you seek compensation? How and when do you file claims?
The legal system is about as intuitive as brain surgery, so it’s understandable if you’re confused or unsure what to do. Here are some tips from Larry Vaughan, an expert attorney who has argued before the Supreme Court. While injury law is not his main focus, it is a subject he knows a lot about.
How Do I File a Claim for My Child?
Parents file injury claims for their child as the child’s “next best friend.” Yes, that’s the real legal term. While you don’t technically need a lawyer, practically, you’re not going to win without one. You will also have to sign medical releases so that your attorney can see your child’s medical information.
When Do I File the Claim?
Parents should probably wait to file the claim until the child reaches “maximum recovery.” This means the child is as recovered as they ever will be.
For parents, the statute of limitations is one year. That means that you have one year to file a claim for any medical expenses caused by the accident. For the child, however, the statute of limitations is one year past their 18th birthday. This means that you can file for pain and suffering until the child turns 19-years-old.
Will the Case Definitely Go to Court?
No. Such claims are often settled outside of court in “mediation.” Mediators have no legal power, but they have been trained to help parties reach compromises. More often, claims are settled outside of court by mediators, although if mediation fails, you can go to court.
Does My Child Have to Be in Court and Will They Have to Testify?
Only children aged seven or older can testify in court. Practically, however, attorneys usually don’t ask children to testify unless they are at least 12. This is because younger children might get misled or confused.
While your child may not have to testify, they should be in court. It often helps the jury to sympathize when they can see your child’s injury.
Also, lawyers usually ask for a trial by peers for cases involving children. This is because juries tend to be sympathetic toward children. The other option is to waive your right to a jury and have a non-jury case. This is usually quicker, but it is not recommended for such lawsuits.
Who Gets the Money?
In trials where a child is injured, parents are compensated for any medical bills or expenses, but the compensation for pain and suffering is awarded to the child. Since children aren’t allowed to have a personal account with more than $10,000, however, any money they are awarded will be put in a trust fund until they turn 18. The money belongs to the child, not the parent.
How Do I Find a Good Lawyer?
Talk with people who have worked with an attorney before. Ask them about their experience. Choose a lawyer by recommendation.
In Tennessee, you can also call the Board of Professional Responsibility. This agency is where people file grievances against attorneys. While the board may not tell you what the grievances are, they will tell you if there are any against an attorney.
Be fair, however. Sometimes attorneys get unfair grievances registered against them. If you research an attorney and find one grievance six or seven years ago, that attorney is probably safe. If you find one in the past six months, you may want to look elsewhere.
"Bart is an excellent trial lawyer," Larry Vaughan said.
If your child was injured in an accident, contact Bart Durham Injury Law. Our auto accident attorneys are ready to represent you and your children.