Parents expect children to suffer some injuries as they grow up–cuts, scrapes, and even fractures seem to be an unavoidable part of childhood. But when injuries result from someone else’s negligence, parents could seek compensation from the responsible parties with help from a well-practiced attorney.
Children who are injured because of another’s carelessness are entitled to damages for their losses, but the Commonwealth does not allow persons under age 18 to bring a lawsuit. A discussion with an Augusta County child injury lawyer could help the family of an injured child weigh their options for securing justice.
Any injured person seeking damages from a defendant must prove the responsible party was negligent. A plaintiff could demonstrate negligence by showing that the defendant did not act as cautiously as a reasonable person would have in similar circumstances. The plaintiff must also prove that a defendant violated the duty of care toward the plaintiff.
When the plaintiff is a child who was injured by an adult, the standard is stricter. An adult must recognize that a child’s capacity to discern risk and control his or her impulses is still developing, and apply extra caution when children are present.
A seasoned Augusta County lawyer could evaluate a case and identify parties whose negligence might have contributed to a child’s injury. Anyone whose lack of caution was a factor in an accident that injured a minor could be liable for damages.
Virginia still follows the contributory negligence doctrine. This doctrine bars negligent plaintiffs from collecting damages from other potentially negligent parties, even if the plaintiff’s behavior was a much smaller contributor to the accident or injury than the defendant’s. Although contributory negligence produces some harsh results for adult plaintiffs, the law allows injured children some leeway.
Children under age seven cannot be negligent as a matter of law. No matter what the child did, it will not preclude him or her from collecting damages under a theory of contributory negligence. If a child is aged between seven and 14 when the accident occurred, there is a rebuttable presumption that the child was not negligent.
The rebuttable presumption means that a defendant might raise the possibility that the child’s actions were negligent, but the defendant must present evidence showing that the child had the knowledge, maturity, and expertise to behave reasonably under the circumstances, yet failed to do so. An experienced injury lawyer in the area could counter such an argument by showing that the child’s powers of discernment or judgment were similar to those of other children of similar age.
If a parent or guardian wishes to bring a lawsuit on behalf of a child, Virginia Code §8.01-8 allows him or her to do so as the child’s “next friend.” Courts typically allow a parent to serve as his or her child’s next friend but could choose another person in certain circumstances. A knowledgeable attorney in Augusta County could advise a parent about the process of bringing suit as his or her child’s next friend.
The next friend could negotiate with potentially responsible parties on his or her child’s behalf or bring a lawsuit. Whether a court hears the claim or not, a judge must approve any settlement on behalf of a child. The court will schedule a hearing that the next friend must attend, and the minor should attend, if possible. The court will hear evidence about the child’s injury, prognosis, and current and future needs.
Typically proceeds from a child’s settlement are paid to a court and deposited in an interest-bearing account. The child will gain access to the account when he or she turns 18. If the child’s condition requires significant ongoing care, the court might appoint a guardian ad litem to disperse funds to the parents as the child’s needs require it.
If your child has suffered a serious injury, you are likely going through a lot of turmoil. In addition to the pain of seeing your child suffer and worrying about the impact of the injury on the rest of the child’s life, you might also be experiencing stress regarding finances and planning for the future.
A compassionate Augusta child injury lawyer could offer guidance and sage advice throughout your ordeal. Schedule a consultation at The Warren Firm as soon as possible after an injury to determine how best to prepare for your child’s future.