Filing a Personal Injury Claim on Behalf of a Minor
According to the CDC Childhood Injury Report, each year more than 12,000 children between the ages of 0 and 19 die from unintentional injuries, and more than 9.2 million receive emergency medical care for non-fatal injuries. The statistics show that the most common injuries to children include things such as falls, animals attacks, and motor vehicle occupant injuries. However, children are also vulnerable to physical, emotional and sexual abuse; medical malpractice; defective and/or dangerous toys; and many other types of injury due to the malice or neglect of a third party.
If your child or loved one has been injured as a result of the negligence of another party, he or she may be entitled to compensation. However, children cannot seek legal representation and bring a lawsuit against the negligent parties, instead they need the help of their parents or legal guardians.
As the child’s parent or legal guardian, it is your obligation to assist the child in seeking legal representation and file a lawsuit on their behalf to obtain compensation for:
- Medical expenses (past and future)
- Loss of future income/earning capacity
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations
In Texas, the statute of limitations for a personal injury case is two years from the date of injury. However, under some circumstances, including cases involving minors, the time limit is extended. The statute of limitations for the personal injury claims of a minor child may be extended until the child turns 18 years old or is otherwise “emancipated” (legally deemed an adult). The child then has two years from that date forward to file a lawsuit and preserve the statute of limitations. The whole area of statute of limitations is constantly undergoing change. It is best to consult an attorney for advice and information in this regard.
Claims that belong to the parents are not subject to the extended statute of limitations of minors. This includes things such as claims for medical expenses of the minor. This is because, under Texas law, parents have a legal duty to provide for the medical care of their children. If the child receives medical treatment for any injury while they are still a minor, then funds awarded for those medical bills constitute a claim that belongs to the parents because minors can’t incur debt.
The child’s claims include those which are personal to the child, such as pain and suffering, mental anguish, scarring, disfigurement, physical impairment, etc. They may be brought by the parents on behalf of the child at any time while the child is still a minor, or they may be brought by the child within two years after the child is legally deemed an adult.
What Happens to the Money Awarded?
The money your child will net from the settlement cannot be paid to the parent. It must be either placed in the registry of the court or safely invested in some way, usually an annuity, also known as a structured settlement.
Registry of the Court
Money placed into the Court’s registry will be deposited into the District Clerk’s trust account and will grow at typical bank interest rates until it is withdrawn after the child’s 18th birthday. The main trade-off with the registry of the court is that though the interest rate will be low, this is the safest option.
If you decide the money should be placed in the registry of the court, the funds will be deposited into the District Court’s account. You will be given a copy of the receipt showing the deposit has been made. When your child turns 18, he or she simply needs to go to the clerk’s office and present proper identification, and the clerk will issue a check for the amount deposited plus any interest earned.
Structured Settlement (Annuity)
If you are willing to accept some risk, it may be worth it to consider an annuity, which is a financial product that guarantees regular payments over time from an insurance company. The advantage of an annuity is that the interest rate is going to be higher than the court registry. In addition, the principle and gains are both tax-free.
The downside is that once terms are finalized, there’s little you can do to alter them if they do not meet your needs. You cannot renegotiate the terms if your financial situation or the overall economy changes, and the funds are not immediately accessible in case of an emergency.
There are many ways to structure an annuity. You should consult with your attorney to find an insurance broker who can tailor a payout structure to best suit your child’s needs.
We Are Here to Help
At GreeningLaw P.C., we understand that seeing a child injured can be one of the most difficult moments in any parent’s life. Our experienced attorneys care about you and your outcome, and we treat your case with the same respect and thoroughness as we would our own families.
As one of the most recognized personal injury law firms in the state, we know how to make sure your child or loved one is properly compensated for their suffering. We work on a contingency basis, which means you don’t pay for a thing unless you receive compensation for your personal injury case.
Contact us today for a free consultation. We will review all the elements of your case, discuss any possible compensation you may receive, and suggest the best course of action.
We fight the legal battle so you have time for healing and renewal. We will help you and your child get through this.