When a child is injured at daycare, in a car crash, or in any other type of accident, parents may feel overwhelmed and unsure how to protect the child’s best interests. These frequently asked questions can help provide a starting point for parents with questions about seeking compensation for a child’s injury.
Will insurance cover everything?
Many people think of insurance simply as a system that protects them by covering their losses after an accident or other injury. However, this does not mean that it is safe to assume that the insurance company is looking out for the best interests of an injured child and his or her family.
In fact, insurance companies are just like other types of businesses in the sense that they are driven by profit. Thus, insurers go to great lengths to minimize the payments they make to people after an injury – for instance by offering to settle claims quickly for far less than they are worth.
What people often do not realize is that accepting an offer from an insurance company can severely limit their ability to obtain full compensation for their injuries through the legal system. This is one reason why it is important to seek legal advice as soon as possible after a child is injured, and before accepting payment from an insurer.
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How long do we have to file a lawsuit?
The time limit for filing a lawsuit is known as the statute of limitations. Once it runs out, the injured party no longer has a right to seek compensation through the civil legal system. When an adult is injured in Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations typically expires two years after the date that the injury occurred. For claims involving injuries to children, however, the statute of limitations is more complex and in some cases can extend until two years after the child turns 18. This distinction is explained in greater detail below.
Who can sue when a child is injured?
When a person has a legal right to sue for damages after an injury, he or she is said to “own” the legal claim. When a child is injured, the claim may belong either to the child or his or her parents, depending on the individual situation.
Due to the nature of the parent-child relationship, many legal claims stemming from a child’s injuries actually belong to the child’s parents. This is because parents are financially responsible for their children therefore must bear many of the economic burdens associated with a child’s injuries, such as hospital bills and rehabilitative care. A parent’s claim on behalf of an injured child remains valid for two years after the injury occurs.
Certain claims, however, may be brought by the injured child independently once he or she reaches adulthood. In Pennsylvania, this can include claims for the child’s pain and suffering, as well as for his or her loss of earning capacity as an adult. Unlike the claims belonging to the parents, the child’s own claims do not expire until two years after his or her 18th birthday.
Parents should bear in mind that the law in this area is highly complex, so it is very important to consult with an attorney as soon as possible after a child is injured. A lawyer with experience handling child injury liability cases can evaluate the specific circumstances involved to determine the compensation that may be available and determine how much time is available to file a claim.