What happens if a child is seriously injured due to someone else’s negligence? In the State of Washington, there are a couple of options. First, a parent or legal representative could file a lawsuit on the minor’s behalf. Second, the child can act on their own once they’ve turned 18.
In this post, we’ll provide some basic legal information about this unique situation, including:
As a quick caveat, this post is intended to provide a brief overview of this topic. If you need targeted help about your injured child, call us now. There’s no cost to speak with one of our attorneys – and we’ll only charge a fee if we win your case.
Children are particularly vulnerable to injuries. As adults, it’s up to us to make sure to protect them from dangers that could harm them. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen. And when a child gets seriously hurt, the consequences can impact their future.
Here are some common ways that children get hurt, or even killed:
Property owners can also be responsible if their premises has an “attractive nuisance.” Things like pools, dogs, or even old farm equipment can be tempting for a child. It’s important that any potential hazards like these are kept secure and ideally, out of street-view.
Whether the injury involves an adult or a child, there are a few key similarities when it comes to pursuing a claim. It’s important that the following criteria is met in order to have a chance at receiving compensation.
The burden of proving these three components is on the victim (also called the plaintiff). Even if it seems straightforward, it’s best to involve an experienced personal injury attorney to navigate this process so that your family’s rights are protected.
There are two options for bringing forward claims involving a child. First, a parent or guardian could act on behalf of their child and file a claim. In most cases, a parent would have three years from the time of the accident (RCW 4.16.080).
Washington State also allows a child to file a claim on their own for up to three years past their 18th birthday (RCW 4.16.190). This “tolled” statute creates a pathway for more victims to seek compensation for their injuries.
Later in this post, we’ll briefly discuss the pros and cons of each of these options.
Settlement payouts usually differ for child victims than adults, too. First, a Guardian at Litem (“GAL”) will typically be assigned to the child by the court. Their role is to ensure that the child’s legal interests are protected, and that any settlement offer is fair. So, you should plan on an additional party being involved at the table for any compensation negotiations.
Second, the settlement itself may be structured differently due to the child’s age. For example, the money may be placed into a trust fund for your child to access once they turn 18. Sometimes, particularly with large award amounts, the settlement may be paid out in a series of installments.
Understandably, parents may want to seek compensation for their own damages involving their child’s injury. After all, it’s the parents who are on the financial hook to pay doctor bills. Another common scenario we see is that a mom or dad ends up missing work to take care of their child.
There are a couple of pathways for a parent to seek compensation:
Again, an injury attorney can provide counsel on the best way to seek compensation for child and parents.
So, which is best? Filing a claim on behalf of your child or waiting until they turn 19 so they can do it themselves? It’s impossible to answer this question for your family, since every scenario is different.
However, here are a few things to consider:
Other factors will likely impact your family’s situation. No matter what, make sure you’re aware of your options and timelines involved. You do not want to be forever barred from seeking compensation.
If your child has been injured in an accident, we highly recommend that you reach out to our Tacoma personal injury attorneys. We are happy to hear what happened and answer any questions you have – at no cost. Let us help your family understand the legal options available to securing compensation for your child.