Despite their best efforts, parents can’t always protect their children from injuries: skinned knees, bumps, and bruises are a natural part of childhood. When your child is seriously injured, however, as a result of someone else’s negligence, parents can file personal injury claims on behalf of their children. Within the claim, you can recover economic and non-economic damages to cover various costs and losses.
Once the court determines the injured party is a minor, the issue of who can file a claim on their behalf is next. The lawsuit will then proceed the same as other personal injury matters. When both parents have custody, either one can file for their child. If one parent has primary custody, they have an exclusive right to sue for one year after the injury. If they do not, the right to sue moves to the other parent or any party with a legal interest in the child. There are many nuances to these cases, and you should speak with a Maryland personal injury lawyer as soon as you can to ensure your child’s future is protected.
The “next friend” rule in Maryland child injury claims
When a parent or guardian files a personal injury lawsuit for their child, it is referred to under the “next friend” rule. You’ll often hear this terminology during a car accident claim, but it applies to all injury claims involving minors. There are slight differences between filing for yourself and filing for your child. One significant confusion that parents have is defining what a minor is. While parents believe they know the answer, there is a technicality to consider. A minor is someone under 18, and they are a minor until midnight of the day they turn 18. Therefore, the moment the clock strikes midnight on their birthday, they are an adult.
Statute of limitations for injured minors in Maryland
Most personal injury claims have a three-year statute of limitations for injury victims to file claims. However, when your claim involves a minor, the circumstances may change. In some cases, you have until the child turns 21 to make a claim because the statute of limitations begins tolling for three years when the minor child turns 18. Working with a Maryland personal injury lawyer is vital to finding the best time to file a claim and to understand the applicable statute of limitations.
Common causes of childhood injury in Maryland
A child can suffer an injury in various activities, and depending on how they are injured, the negligent party will vary. They can suffer injuries at school, in the car, or extracurricular activities. The leading cause of fatal childhood injury is car accidents, but there are myriad ways a child can suffer a catastrophic but survivable injury. Examples of common ways your child can suffer an injury include:
- Sports injuries
- Slip and falls
- Car accidents
- School bus accidents
- Swimming pool and water-related injuries
- Defective play equipment
- Bicycle accidents
Since children spend most of their time in school, injuries are common, and claims are complex. You can sue multiple parties contingent on an investigation.
The most important aspect of a minor personal injury claim is medical attention. Injuries to children are worse because they can result in long-term disabilities and life-threatening complications. Since children are still growing, even a minor injury can impact their growth. They are also smaller, and their bones and ligaments are more susceptible to injury. An injury that is minimal to an adult can be severe for a child.
Settlements and trust funds
Since you are filing a claim on behalf of your child, they cannot accept or deny a settlement. Parents can only accept a settlement offer when they are the only living parent, or when both parents agree to the settlement. If there is no surviving parent, the person filing the claim can accept the settlement but must wait for the court to approve it.
Once the negligent party issues compensation, you do not have a full say in what happens to the money. If the compensation amount is over $5,000, the funds will go into a trust fund with the child as the beneficiary. They can have access to the funds on their 18th birthday. Parents can deposit the funds into their account if the settlement is less than $5,000.
Contact our Maryland attorneys today
You have options if your child suffered an injury because of someone else’s negligence. Do not wait until they are adults to take legal action, but do so immediately. While the process is similar, there are some nuances, and you must have a Maryland personal injury attorney on your team. Contact Plaxen Adler Muncy, at one of our multiple locations throughout Maryland. Call us or submit our contact form to schedule a free initial consultation.