As a parent, protecting your children is your most important job. Each day, you take steps to keep them safe – like buckling them into a car seat or making sure that they wear a helmet when riding a bike. Yet there are some things that you can’t control – like negligent drivers on the road that cause a car accident with your child in the vehicle.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), approximately 190,000 children are injured each year in car accidents, and more than 1,000 kids die in motor vehicle accidents annually. If your child has suffered an injury in a collision, they may be entitled to financial compensation for their losses. A skilled car accident attorney can work with you to help your child get the money that they deserve for their injuries.
Is My Child Entitled to Compensation for Their Injuries?
Under Arkansas personal injury law, an individual who was harmed through another person’s negligent or careless actions is entitled to compensation for their losses. This ability to recover compensation is not limited by age. In other words, if your son or daughter was hurt in an auto accident, they can seek compensation (damages) from the at-fault driver.
In a car accident claim, your child may be seek money for their full range of losses, including:
- Medical bills
- Future medical care
- Property damage
- Lost wages (if your child is old enough to work)
- Reduced earning capacity (if they suffered serious injuries that will affect their ability to earn a living)
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Scarring or disfigurement
The specific damages available – and the amount that your child will be able to recover – will be based on the facts of your claim.
Child car accidents can cause a range of injuries. Common injuries may include broken bones, bruises, neck or back injuries, burns, internal organ damage, or even brain injury. For example, if you are rear-ended with a child in your car, you both may be diagnosed with whiplash. Just as you can seek compensation for your injuries – so can your child.
The process typically starts with your car accident attorney sending a demand letter to the at-fault driver’s insurance company. This letter will set out the facts of the collision, the legal reason why their insured is responsible for the crash, and then make a demand for compensation. After receiving this letter, the insurance company will typically make a counter-offer and negotiations will begin.
Achieving a settlement for a child in a car accident case can spare your son or daughter the stress of going to trial. However, if the insurer refuses to offer a fair settlement, then it may be necessary to file a lawsuit and take the case to trial. Keep in mind that the vast majority – 97% – of personal injury claims settle without the case going to court. While each case is different, there is a strong likelihood that your child car accident claim will result in a settlement.
What Should I Do If My Child Was Hurt in a Car Accident?
Car accidents can be incredibly traumatic for everyone involved – including children. Being in a crash with your child can often cause a parent to panic. Remembering some basic steps can help to ensure that your child gets the best possible care for their car accident injuries – and that their legal rights are protected.
The first and most important thing that you can do is to seek medical attention for your child’s injuries. Even if you think that they weren’t badly hurt, take them to see their doctor or go to the hospital. This way, they can get a prompt diagnosis of any potential injuries – and you have created a record that links their injuries with the accident.
Next, if you are able to do so, gather information at the scene of the accident. This includes exchanging insurance information with the other driver, getting names of witnesses, and taking photos and videos if you are able to do so. If the police arrive, give a statement that sticks to the facts of the accident. Do not apologize to the other driver or otherwise talk about the accident.
Once you are home safe with your child, the next step is to consult with a personal injury lawyer. Most law firms offer free consultations, where you can learn more about your rights and options for pursuing a claim. Working with a skilled attorney can help to relieve some of the burden on you, allowing you to focus on what is truly important: your child and their recovery.
A representative from the insurance company may try to contact you after the accident, and may even offer you a quick settlement for your child’s injuries. While it may be tempting to take the offer and move forward with your life, remember that the insurer’s goal is not to get you the highest possible amount – it is to pay out as little as possible. Your lawyer can handle communications with the insurance company for you, protecting your child’s interests.
How Long Do I Have to File a Child Car Accident Claim?
In Arkansas, there is a statute of limitations of three years for personal injury claims. This means that, with limited exceptions, a lawsuit for a personal injury (such as those suffered in a car crash) must be brought within three years of the date of the accident. For minors – individuals under the age of 18 – the statute of limitations is tolled, or paused, until they turn 18.
Because of this exception to the statute of limitations in Arkansas, a child’s parents have a longer period of time to file a claim on behalf of your child. For example, if your child was 15 when the accident occurred, you will have until they turn 21 to file a claim on their behalf (which extends the statute of limitations to 6 years). However, because your case will be much stronger when witness memories are fresh and evidence is readily accessible, it is important to schedule a free consultation with a car accident attorney as soon as possible after a child car accident.
What Happens If a Minor Is in an Accident?
Children – and in particular, young children – are often at risk of serious injury in a car accident. In fact, motor vehicle accidents are a leading cause of death for children between the ages of 2 and 14. While seat belts, airbags, and sitting in the back seat in an approved booster seat or car seat can help to reduce the risk of catastrophic injuries, they may not prevent all injuries.
If your child is hurt in a collision, you may be able to file a claim on their behalf to recover compensation for their injuries. A skilled personal injury attorney can work with you to help ensure that your child gets the money that they deserve.
What Happens to the Settlement Money for a Child Car Accident?
Settlements for a child in a car accident claim are more complicated than those for adults. Under Arkansas law, a settlement in a personal injury claim for more than $5,000 must go through a special procedure. To settle a personal injury claim of a minor, a guardian must be appointed and the probate division of the circuit court petitioned for approval of the settlement.
The process of appointing a guardian and getting the injury settlement authorized can be complex. An experienced car accident lawyer can handle the details of a settlement for a minor on your behalf, giving you peace of mind in knowing that your child’s claim is being handled appropriately.
How We Can Help
There are few things that are scarier than getting into a car accident with a child. If your child or baby has been hurt in an auto accident, a skilled car accident lawyer can fight for your rights – allowing you to focus on your family.
With offices in Arkadelphia, Little Rock, Conway, and Bentonville, the Law Offices of Alan LeVar represents clients throughout Arkansas on a range of personal injury matters. We offer free initial consultations, and never charge a fee unless we recover money for you. To learn more or to schedule an appointment with a car accident attorney, contact us today at 870-246-7070, or fill out our online contact form.