When a car accident happens, children may suffer more serious injuries than adults due to their smaller and developing bodies. Some of the most common injuries to children include head and neck injuries, such as concussions, brain trauma, and whiplash. Severe head injuries may lead to lasting cognitive problems and other permanent disabilities. Children also may suffer injuries such as broken bones, chest injuries, and lacerations, which may lead to scarring and disfigurement in some cases. Not all injuries are physical. A child may suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or other psychological conditions after this experience.
Read more about the proper use of car seats, as well as potential defects that may cause injuries.
Parents driving with their children can take measures to keep their children safer in the event of a crash. These include ensuring that children are restrained by seat belts and that small children use car seats as appropriate. Children who are younger than 13 years old should ride in the back seat. If someone else drives with a child, parents may want to go over safety precautions with that person in advance. However, the risk of an accident cannot be averted entirely, even if a parent does everything right.
Suing for Child Injuries in Car Accidents
Most car crashes result from careless actions by one or more drivers. If their child was riding with someone else when an accident happened, parents may have a claim against the driver of that vehicle or against other drivers who were involved. Parents would need to show that the accident resulted from the negligence of one or more defendants. This means that the defendant failed to use the reasonable care that an ordinary driver would have used in the situation, and this caused their child’s injuries. Evidence of a traffic violation can help prove liability, but this is not required.
If a child was riding with a parent when an accident happened, parents still may have a claim against another driver who caused or contributed to the collision. Sometimes fault emerges only after a thorough investigation of the events. Even in a single-vehicle accident when no other driver was involved, the parent may not have been entirely at fault. For example, they may have a claim against an auto manufacturer based on a defect in the vehicle or a component, or possibly a child safety device like a car seat. Or perhaps an entity responsible for maintaining the road caused or contributed to an accident through its negligence.
Children Suing Parents
Most states allow a child to sue their parent for injuries in a car accident, even if they would not allow other types of parent-child personal injury lawsuits. This is because the insurer rather than the parent ultimately pays the compensation. However, the laws and procedures in this area can be complex, so it may make sense to consult an attorney.
Damages in a car accident case may cover both economic and non-economic forms of harm. In other words, parents can get compensation for financial losses as well as the intangible suffering of their child. Potential types of damages include:
Medical bills, such as surgeries, tests, hospital stays, doctor’s visits, therapies, and medications
Costs of future treatment
Costs of vehicle and home modifications if a child has a permanent disability
Any out-of-pocket expenses incurred by parents due to the child’s injuries
Pain and suffering
Loss of enjoyment of life
Scarring and disfigurement
If a defendant acted extremely recklessly or intentionally, punitive damages may be available in addition to compensatory damages. For example, accidents involving road rage or drunk driving may open the door to punitive damages in some cases.
Car Insurance and Child Passenger Injuries
Most states require a driver to purchase a minimum amount of liability insurance to cover injuries to other people in accidents caused by the driver. However, the minimum amount likely will not cover the costs associated with a serious collision, and a driver may not have enough personal assets to make up the difference. In addition, some drivers break the law and drive without the mandatory liability insurance. To address these concerns, parents may want to purchase uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance, even if this is not required in their state. This also can cover hit and run accidents when the at-fault driver is never identified. In states where uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage is required, parents may want to consider purchasing more than the minimum.
Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Claims
Even though they get uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance through their own insurer, parents should not assume that a UM/UIM claim will be uncontested. They still will need to prove that the uninsured or underinsured driver was at fault for the crash.
Parents should be aware that their insurance policy will provide a deadline for filing a claim after an accident. This should not be confused with the statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit. The period for filing a claim usually expires much sooner. Parents ideally should review their car insurance policy in advance so that they know the applicable deadlines.