Children under the age of 18 years lack the legal capacity to file a lawsuit or claim on their own. Florida laws permit parents or legal guardians to file a lawsuit on behalf of their child to recover damages for a personal injury. However, filing a personal injury case for a child’s injuries is slightly different from filing a claim for an adult.
A Jacksonville injury lawyer can explain how you can file a claim if your child sustains injuries in an accident or other incident during a free consultation. No amount of money erases the pain and suffering a child suffers because of an accident or injury. However, the proceeds from personal injury lawsuits provide long-term care and resources for a child as the child continues to heal and recover from their injuries.
What Compensation Can My Child Recover for a Personal Injury Claim in Florida?
A child who sustains injuries because of another party can recover the same types of damages as an adult. A parent or guardian may seek compensation for economic and non-economic damages incurred by the child, including:
- Medical bills and expenses related to the treatment of injuries
- Pain and suffering caused by mental anguish, emotional distress, and physical injuries
- Various forms of therapy, including occupational, physical, mental health, rehabilitation, and vocational therapies
- Future lost wages and diminished earning potential
- Permanent impairments and disabilities caused by brain damage, spinal cord injuries, and other injuries
- Diminished quality of life
The parents may file a separate claim against the at-fault party for expenses incurred because of the accident. For example, the parents may be entitled to loss of income if they had to stay out of work to care for their child. They could also be entitled to reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses related to the child’s injuries and recovery.
What is the Statute of Limitations in Florida for Child Injury Claims?
The Florida statute of limitations for most personal injury claims was recently changed. By default, the deadline is two years for accidents occurring on or after March 24th, 2023, and four years for accidents occurring before that date. However, there are some exceptions. For example, children may have up to seven years after the injury date to file a claim.
The deadline for filing most medical malpractice claims is two years from the date the person discovered or should have reasonably discovered the malpractice. The state also imposes a hard four-year deadline from the date of the malpractice, except in cases of fraud and children.
If a child sustains injuries because of medical malpractice, a parent or legal guardian can file a medical malpractice claim up until the child’s eighth birthday. The reasoning is that a child’s injury may not be discovered until much later as the child continues to develop and enter school.
The statutes of limitations regarding children’s injury claims can be confusing and complex. There could be other exceptions to the statutes of limitations that apply in your child’s case. It is best to consult an attorney as soon as you believe your child may have sustained injuries because of another party’s actions or conduct.
How Are Personal Injury Settlements Managed for Minors in Florida?
An adult is free to enter a settlement agreement without court interference. They may agree to terms they believe fairly compensate them for their injuries and damages. However, that is not the case with children’s injury settlements.
Florida laws are very specific concerning how a minor’s personal injury settlement is handled. The process for approving the settlement agreement depends on the settlement amount.
There are three thresholds for minor settlements:
Settlement Proceeds Do Not Exceed $15,000
Court approval of the settlement is not necessary unless a civil lawsuit was filed on behalf of the minor child. The parents do not need to seek legal guardianship, and a Guardian ad Litem is not required.
A Guardian ad Litem (GAL) is a person appointed by the court to advocate for the child in a specific matter. For example, in a personal injury case, the GAL protects the minor’s best interests. The GAL reviews the settlement agreement to ensure the terms are in the child’s best interest.
A legal guardian is appointed by the court to make financial decisions for the child and manage the child’s settlement proceeds. The guardianship process requires filing a petition and holding a hearing. The guardian must file reports and may need court approval to spend the settlement money.
The guardianship terminates upon the child reaching 18 years of age. At that time, the guardian transfers the personal injury settlement proceeds to the child.
Settlements Between $15,000.01 and $49,999.99
Court approval is required for all personal injury settlements within this range. However, if the net proceeds to the child do not exceed $15,000, legal guardianship is not required. The court may appoint a GAL at its discretion.
However, if the proceeds to the child exceed $15,000, the court requires legal guardianship. It may or may not appoint a GAL.
Settlement Over $50,000
All injury settlements over $50,000 require court approval. In addition, the court must appoint a legal guardian and a Guardian ad Litem for the child. However, the court may waive the GAL if the legal guardian has no conflict of interest.
An experienced personal injury attorney for childhood injury claims can help parents structure personal injury settlements in the child’s best interest. The process can be confusing, especially in cases involving large settlement amounts. Having an experienced lawyer to guide you through the process can avoid costly mistakes and delays.
What Should I Do if My Child is Injured in an Accident?
The first priority is your child’s health and wellbeing. Seek immediate medical treatment for your child’s injuries. You can document the injuries by taking photographs and keeping detailed notes about your child’s symptoms and side effects.
Report the injury as soon as possible. For car accidents, call 911 from the accident scene. If your child is injured on another party’s property, report the accident and injury to the property owner or manager as soon as possible. Document the report in writing.
Legal action may be the last thing on your mind when your child sustains an injury. However, you want to protect your child’s legal rights. The person who injured your child should be held liable for damages. Seeking legal advice is the best way to protect your child’s legal rights and interests.
Contact Our Office for a Free Consultation with a Jacksonville Personal Injury Lawyer
Our legal team is dedicated to helping you and your child seek justice after an accident or injury. Call us to schedule a free evaluation and consultation with an experienced Jacksonville personal injury attorney.
Let us help you recover the money your child deserves for injuries, pain, and suffering caused by another person’s negligent, reckless conduct.