Car accident claims involving child accident victims
Conceptually, a child is treated much like an adult during the course of a personal injury claim. A personal injury claim seeks to obtain compensation for injuries sustained in an accident. In practice, however, there are some important differences that you (or your lawyer) need to keep in mind. Be sure to act quickly, as many of the issues involving a young person require particular attention from a lawyer knowledgeable about injury claims advanced on behalf of a young person.
Injuries to younger children are different than those experienced by teens, and different again from adults. Younger children can have a hard time explaining the sites of injury, and the type of pain experienced. It can also be more challenging to assess a child’s pain. This is where it is usually best to seek a professional medical opinion if your child was involved in a car accident. You can never be too careful. While there may be a long wait time at the emergency room, oftentimes parents feel much better knowing that their child appears to be ok. If something more serious is wrong with the child, you are already in the right spot to have treatment.
Assessing a child’s injuries can be a complicated process. Some children will develop anxiety related to driving – even if they don’t drive at the time of the accident because they are too young. Older children may develop anxiety while driving, or no longer express interest to learn how to drive. Unlike older people, children are often quick to bounce back from minor injuries. However, there are occasions where injuries can affect growth or later development.
It isn’t proper to leave a child’s injuries to chance so a complete examination by a medical doctor at least twice is beneficial. The first time typically assesses injuries. The second assessment is done after treatment has occurred or after a period of rest. The benefit to the second evaluation is twofold: to ensure that the child is recovered or expected to improve, and to set a comparison point to determine injuries.
An injury claim belongs to the child, just like an injury adult ‘owns’ their claim for injury compensation. A child (or adult who is incapable of managing their affairs) has a litigation guardian in place to start a claim, defend against a claim, contest a claim, or to make a host of important decisions on that person’s behalf. A guardian of the child (see the Guardianship Act), is the litigation guardian for the child unless a judge orders another person to act in that capacity. The formal duties of the litigation guardian are explained in the Nova Scotia Rules of Civil Procedure. Highlights of Section 36.09 include the right to make any decision that a party could make during the lawsuit and the obligation to keep a child 16 years or older informed about the lawsuit. If the litigation guardian is “adverse in interest” (e.g., the litigation guardian will benefit from a negative result in the child’s case)- another person must be appointed.
Conclusion of the Claim
Once the child becomes 19 years old, they can decide on their own how to settle their case and the litigation guardian is no longer required by law. However, if the litigation guardian is seeking to settle the claim prior to the child’s 19th birthday, the approval from the Court is required. The judge must be satisfied that the settlement would be in the child’s best interest and that legal fees from the lawyer are reasonable.
Jeff Mitchell is the Principal Lawyer and Founder of NOVA Injury Law. Jeff has dedicated his practice to the area of personal injury, accident, and disability benefits law. Contact 1.800.262.8104 or [email protected] to arrange for a free case review today.