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Children are a vulnerable group, and thus have special protections under the law when they are injured. Personal injury cases filed on behalf of children are different from those where the adult is the injured party. It is important to know about some of the differences. You may be able to file a claim for your child’s injury. Common locations of successful claims include schools, daycares, and swimming pools.
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For a free legal consultation with a child injury lawyer serving Austin, call 800-863-5312
You May Be Entitled To Seek Compensation
Child Injury in Austin lawyers near me 800-863-5312
Who is at Fault?
The person liable for injuries your child has sustained will depend on the specifics of their case. For example:
In car accidents
Where your child is injured in a car accident caused by another driver or other road user, as long as it can be proven that the accident was caused by another person and the injuries your child sustained were a result of that accident, you may be entitled to pursue compensation.
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Schools have a duty of care towards all children that attend. This duty of care extends to providing shelter, food, transportation (where necessary) and a safe environment for the children. If a school fails to provide a safe environment, and a child is injured because of the negligence of the school, you may be entitled to seek compensation.
Every day, millions of parents in the U.S. entrust a childcare provider with the care of one of their most precious treasures – their children. Unfortunately, most daycare injuries in Austin result from inadequate supervision or lack of training, and a momentary distraction or lapse on the part of the caregiver can result in devastating injuries to your child. In these cases, you may be entitled to file a claim.
Dog Bite Injuries
Children do not have the same understanding of what a ‘dangerous dog’ is and may not understand the caution needed around strange dogs. When a child is bitten by a dog, it may be the fault of the dog owner if it can be proven that they knew the dog was prone to biting or had bitten before and failed to keep others safe from their dog.
Other public places
Children are inherently curious. So, when a child is injured, the owner or the controller of the property on which the child is injured may be liable, even if the child trespassed onto the property. The rule of “attractive nuisance” relies on the idea that dangerous conditions are likely to attract young children to enter the property. Thus, property owners should take precautions to prevent children from coming onto the property.
To prove that a party is liable, the suing party must prove the following:
1. The owner or controller of the property (the defendant) had actual or constructive knowledge of the hazardous condition;
2. The defendant had actual or constructive knowledge that children were likely to trespass onto the property;
3. The defendant had actual or constructive knowledge that the hazardous conditions carried an unreasonable risk of harm to children;
4. Children would not be able to understand the risks presented;
5. The burden of eliminating the danger was small compared with the risk created for children; and
6. The owner or controller failed to exercise reasonable care in eliminating the hazard.
Your lawyer can help you prove liability for all six of these parts.
Making a Claim on Behalf of Your Child
There are several steps that a parent/guardian must follow to file a lawsuit on behalf of a child.
1. Call a Child Injury Lawyer
Finding an experienced child injury lawyer can make the process must less stressful and less costly. If your child has been injured, you should contact a lawyer before proceeding. A lawyer can help you investigate your case, establish fault, and help you understand the value of your claim.
The associated insurance companies and claims adjusters will investigate the claim also to evaluate the damage. They may consider how the injury occurred, where it occurred, the child’s preexisting medical conditions (if any), whether the injury was preventable, and the costs that the child’s injury have and will incur.
Your lawyer will also conduct an investigation to help build the strongest case possible for you and your child. This allows you to focus on recovery while your lawyer builds your case.
3. Case Settlement
Following the investigation, your lawyer will then begin negotiations with the other side. This is a crucial aspect of seeking compensation. The insurance company will most likely want to settle as quickly as possible and for as little as possible. You may find that your lawyer’s investigation has uncovered aspects that the insurance company hasn’t, thus increasing the value of your claim.
Most child injury claims are settled before ever having to step foot into a courtroom. If your case is settled at this point, your lawyer will walk you through the steps of receiving compensation. In the event that it is not settled at this point, a hearing in front of a judge may be required. Your lawyer will be there every step of the way to ensure that your best interests are met.
At the hearing, the judge will hear evidence about the accident, and injuries, and settlement. These hearings are typically short and friendly. For a settlement hearing, the child may also be assigned their own attorney, called an attorney ad litem. The attorney ad litem in an impartial attorney who acts to ensure that the settlement is fair and that the money that the child receives will be kept for the child. Children are thought to need extra protection under the law, which is why they have their own attorney. The attorney ad litem’s job is to act in the best interest of the child. They will suggest whether the court should approve or deny the settlement. The court will then either approve or deny the settlement. The attorney ad litem and the judge both usually approves the settlement.
Next Friend Rule
When a child is injured, the child victim cannot file a claim for themselves. The child’s parent or guardian must file a claim on the child’s behalf. That person is called the “next friend.” The next friend acts as the plaintiff in the case.
While typically the guardian acts as a next friend, anyone may stand in as one. The next friend will be the one responsible for acting as the plaintiff, finding a lawyer, and making sure that the case proceeds in the manner in which they want it to run. For example, the next friend will decide whether or not they will accept a settlement. While the lawyer may have input, the decision is ultimately given to the next friend.
To learn more about what it means to be a ‘Next Friend,’ speak with a lawyer today.
Child Injury Compensation
When a child is injured, the court will divide the damages into two parts: damages belonging to the child’s parents or guardians, and damages belonging to the child. Since the parents or guardians are responsible for paying the child’s medical bills, the damages awarded for those bills would belong to the child’s guardians. The same is true for attorney’s fees. The money damages that are awarded to the child are not immediately available to them. The court places the money into an interest-accruing trust account that the court maintains. When the child is eighteen years old or is otherwise declared an adult, only then is the money available to the child.
An alternative may also be available. The money may also be used to purchase an insurance policy, called an annuity. An annuity can be paid out in installments after the child turns eighteen years old.
There are 3 main kinds of damages that a plaintiff may recover from a child injury case.
Economic damages are losses that can be calculated in terms of dollars and cents with reasonable precision.
Medical expenses are recoverable economic damages. This may include emergency room visits, ambulance or helicopter transportation, prescription drug costs, surgery expenses, rehabilitation or therapy expenses, and any other medical expenses incurred as a result of the child injury. These damages would be awarded to the child’s guardians. The assessment will also consider future medical expenses if the injuries the child suffered will require ongoing medical treatment, such as additional doctor visits, therapy sessions, surgeries, prescription medication, or other care. This includes medical expenses procured as an adult.
If a parent missed work due to their child’s injuries, their lost wages might also be recoverable. Depending on the nature and severity of the child’s injuries, they may be prevented from future work as an adult. In this case, you may be able to seek lost future earnings, as well.
Non-Economic (Intangible) Damages
Non-economic or intangible damages are usually given to compensate for any psychological harm. A plaintiff may be able to seek compensation for pain and suffering. You may also be able to seek compensation for mental anguish or other physical disfigurements. Calculating and predicting the value that will be given to your intangible damages is difficult. When serious injuries occur, it is not uncommon for six- or even seven-figure awards to be given.
Punitive damages, also known as exemplary damages, are designed to punish the defendant in cases of serious wrongdoing.
Third parties may also be compensated. The parents or guardians of a seriously injured child plaintiff may be able to seek damages. If the accident results in a death, the deceased child’s immediate family members may be able to file a wrongful death suit.