It’s every parent’s worst nightmare — getting a phone call informing you that your child has been injured in an accident. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), unintentional injury is the leading cause of death and serious injury among children between birth and age 19. Each year, over 12,000 children die due to accidental injuries, and more than 9.2 million are seen in emergency rooms for non-fatal injuries.
After a child is hurt, many parents don’t know where to turn for help. Obviously, the first priority is always getting immediate medical attention. Once your child has been treated, the next step is speaking to an experienced personal injury about your legal rights. Here are some important considerations to keep in mind.
Always Report the Injury
When a child is injured at a friend’s house or relative’s home, parents sometimes hesitate to report the incident. Understandably, they don’t want to strain relationships with close friends or loved ones. However, failing to report the injury can hurt a personal injury case down the road. The defense counsel, which is usually hired by an insurance company, will invariably argue that the delay between the incident and reporting the incident means the child could have sustained an injury during the gap between the accident and the report.
You should also avoid reaching any kind of informal agreement or “settlement” with the homeowner. If you accept compensation from the homeowner, it could prevent you from being awarded money in a personal injury case. Although you may be reluctant to report the incident, you never know how much an injury will cost over time. Keep in mind that homeowners insurance exists for a reason. If you end up having to file a lawsuit against the homeowner, the insurance company will take over and defend it. This means you won’t be forced to go to court against a friend or relative.
In the Georgia common law there is a legal creature known as the “tender years doctrine.” This doctrine holds that children under a certain age can not be charged with contributory negligence (fault) or assumption of the risk. The younger the child, the less likely they can be found to have contributed to their own harm.
For example, there is a case that holds that a 4 year old child is presumed incapable of negligence. But there is also a case that holds that a child that is 5 years, 10 months old does not get that same presumption. Exactly when a child becomes capable of contributory negligence is not clear in the case law. It seems safe to say that if a child is older than 6 years they might be charged with contributory negligence. But the issue is one for a jury to decide and is very fact specific.
Homeowners Insurance Will Probably Cover the Injury
Many people worry that reporting an injury at a friend’s house or relative’s home with burden that person with debt. However, the majority of homeowners have an insurance policy that protects them in the event of an injury on their property. If you receive a settlement, the money won’t come out of your loved one’s pocket. Just as with motor vehicle insurance, homeowners insurance covers people against lawsuits brought about by negligence.
When asked by a Philly injury lawyer Rand Spear said, “If your child is injured at school, it’s especially important to contact a personal injury lawyer right away. Because most schools are public entities, you may be required to file a formal notice of your intent to sue. In most cases, the time window for serving this notice is very short. Don’t miss your chance to get the compensation you deserve because you waited too long.”