What to Do If Your Child Is Injured in a Car Accident
Written by Shawn Diederich on January 25, 2016
More than 127,000 children are injured throughout the United States each year in car accidents, according to the most recent statistics published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If your child is hurt in an accident, it is important to understand how the law may affect any personal injury case you subsequently bring against the responsible parties. Children are entitled to their day in court like anyone else, but given their status as minors, the law in Florida governs accidents involving them somewhat differently than adult victims.
Settling a Child’s Personal Injury Claim
As a general rule in Florida, a parent or legal guardian must file a personal injury claim on behalf of a minor—that is, anyone under 18 years of age. Florida law authorizes a parent or guardian to unilaterally settle any personal injury claim on a minor’s behalf for up to $15,000. If the amount the child will receive, less any attorney fees and court costs, exceeds $15,000, then a judge must approve the settlement and appoint a legal “guardian for the property” to take custody of any funds paid by the negligent party. This guardian may not expend settlement funds without approval from the court. The judge will usually require a reason for releasing any such funds, including the need to pay for the child’s medical care or education. The guardian will also have to keep the funds in a restricted bank account or annuity and file periodic accountings with the court to ensure settlement funds are not misused.
Can a Reckless Teenage Driver’s Parents Be Held Responsible?
Many times a minor is injured in a car accident due to the negligence of another minor. For instance, if your teenager is injured while riding in a car recklessly driven by another teenager, you may have a personal injury claim against the other child’s parent or legal guardian. By law, a parent or guardian must sign the driver’s license application of any minor under their custody. This also makes the parent or guardian legally liable for “[a]ny negligence or willful misconduct” committed by the minor while operating a motor vehicle on public roads. The parent or guardian can therefore be held “jointly and severally liable with such minor for any damages” obtained in a personal injury lawsuit. In addition, a parent may be held liable under Florida common law if they know their child has a “propensity to act recklessly”—for example, they let their child use the car despite knowing she has a tendency to speed or drive while distracted—and fails to take “reasonable steps” to prevent their child from harming others.
Get Help for a Child Injury in an Orlando Car Accident
These are just some of the legal issues that may arise when dealing with a child injured in a car accident. If your child is hurt due to someone else’s negligence, you will understandably have many more questions. An experienced Orlando personal injury attorney can help answer those questions. Contact the Diederich Law Firm, P.A., today if you would like to speak with an attorney right away.