You may be the most careful driver and responsible parent in the world. But that doesn’t mean that you can completely shield your child from the consequences of another driver’s negligence. A serious injury to a child – or worse – is every parent’s worst nightmare, and car accidents in Alpharetta and elsewhere throughout the state of Georgia injure thousands and kill hundreds of kids every year, leaving devastated parents and shattered families in their wake. When that happens, parents are left with the struggles that face the families of all injury or wrongful death victims, compounded by the fact that such a tragedy has befallen a child.
At Hait & Kuhn, our Alpharetta car accident attorneys work tirelessly to get compensation and justice for children injured in car accidents, working with families to help them recover and move forward. The process of recovering damages and compensation for a child’s injuries is different than that for adults, and we have the experience to guide parents through the process with compassion, commitment, and personal attention.
An All Too Common Tragedy
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, motor vehicle injuries are a leading cause of death among children in the United States. Even though the number of children hurt or killed in car accidents has declined in recent years due to the increased use and safety of child restraints, car seats, and booster seats, it is still a shockingly large number.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that 723 kids under the age of 13 who were passengers in vehicles were killed in 2016 alone. Additionally, 195 bicyclists and 34 pedestrians under age 13 were killed in car accidents that year. In Georgia, a total of 97 children under the age of five were involved in fatal car accidents in 2015, according to the Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety.
Who Files a Lawsuit for an Injury to a Child?
As is the case elsewhere, minors are not allowed to file lawsuits in Alpharetta or any other city in Georgia. This means that the child’s parents or guardians (and their attorneys) must take the lead in any efforts to recover compensation for the child’s injuries and the family’s losses. Since the parents have suffered as well and are the ones who incurred losses for things such as the child’s medical expenses, they can file their personal injury lawsuit on behalf of themselves as well as on behalf of their child.
What Kinds of Damages Can Be Recovered?
The compensation parents can seek on behalf of their child include damages for the child’s pain and suffering, permanent disability, and loss of earning capacity as an adult. The parents can seek damages on their own behalf for past and future medical and rehabilitation expenses, as well as the loss of services or wages the child would have earned until he became an adult.
Similarly, and tragically, if a child is killed in a car accident in Alpharetta or elsewhere, the parents can file a wrongful death lawsuit. They can seek damages for loss of the child’s services, loss of the child’s love and companionship, funeral expenses, and medical costs, including the cost of psychiatric counseling. They can also be awarded any expenses they have incurred as administrators of the child’s estate.
Court Approval Required for Most Settlements
Since a child can’t advocate for their own interests in a personal injury suit, they rely on their parents, attorneys, and the court to make decisions in their best interest, including whether to settle the case and for how much. That’s why Georgia law requires a judge’s approval for many settlements involving injuries to a minor. Additionally, any funds obtained through settlement or judgment come with strings attached to ensure that they are kept for the benefit of the child.
If the proposed “gross settlement” of a minor’s claim is $15,000 or less, no court approval is needed. The “gross settlement” amount includes the present value of all amounts paid or to be paid in settlement of the claim, including cash, medical expenses, expenses of litigation, attorney’s fees, and any amounts paid to purchase an annuity or other similar financial arrangement.
Settlements above $15,000, however, must be approved by a judge, and the child’s natural guardian (which is usually the parent) must become the child’s conservator. Your attorney will facilitate that process.
Limits on Use of Any Amounts Recovered
Any money recovered on behalf of a child, whether through a settlement or judgment, is legally the child’s property. Since that money can’t and shouldn’t be given to a child, the child’s natural guardian will be in charge of those proceeds until the child turns 18. But that responsibility comes with certain duties and limitations.
Under Georgia law, in settlements of $15,000 or less, the natural guardian “shall thereafter hold and use all or part of the personal property for the benefit of the minor and shall be accountable for the personal property.” If more than $15,000.00 is to be received by the parents or guardians at the time of the settlement, they must be bonded as conservators to hold the money until the child becomes an adult.
If your child has been hurt or killed in a car accident, no amount of money can take all of the pain away. But we can help ease that pain. Hait & Kuhn’s auto accident lawyers understand the unique legal, practical, and emotional issues involved in lawsuits involving injuries to children, and we work with families to navigate the process so they can obtain the compensation they need to help them move forward.
Speak With an Alpharetta Car Accident Attorney at North Metro Litigators Today
The Alpharetta personal injury attorneys at North Metro Litigators will be on your side every step of the way as you face the challenges that come with a car accident case. Call us today at (678) 944-0000 or contact us to arrange for your free initial consultation.