What Happens When a Personal Injury or Wrongful Death Claim Involves a Minor?

To a parent, there is nothing more devastating than their child being injured or killed in an accident, especially when it's due to the negligence or recklessness of someone else. The most common types of personal injury and wrongful death claims involving minors include car accidents where the child is seriously injured or killed.

The state of Florida, along with most other states in the United States, legally recognizes anyone under the age of 18 as a minor. In cases of personal injury and wrongful death, the law gives certain rights to parents since children are not able to make legal decisions for themselves. Additionally, the law provides some protection for children that are not afforded to adults since children are not mature enough to understand and look out for their own interests.

Filing a Personal Injury Claim When a Child Is Injured in an Accident

In Florida, the law takes into consideration that a child lacks the general mental capacity and legal status to file and negotiate a civil suit. Therefore, a parent or guardian may represent the child's interests and participate in settlement decisions. Florida law requires that parents obtain court approval any time a civil lawsuit is filed on a child's behalf or when a personal injury claim and the proposed settlement exceeds $15,000.

Sometimes, the process of filing a claim on behalf of a minor and reaching a settlement is as simple as completing a few forms and filing with the court for approval. It's in the best interest of the insurance company to facilitate smaller claims and obtain a court-approved settlement.

When a parent files a claim on behalf of their child and the at-fault party is deemed financially responsible for the accident, the injured child's parent(s) may legally recover the following damages:

  • All medical bills, both past and future, associated with treating the child's injuries
  • Compensation for the child's lost earning ability
  • Damages for emotional pain and suffering
  • Compensation for parents who must care for a permanently disabled child for the rest of his/her life

It's important to note that nearly all settlement agreements are designed to prohibit any additional or future claims brought on by the child in relation to the same accident. This means that a child cannot reopen a case after they turn 18 even if they're struggling with chronic pain or any long-term effects.

Filing a Wrongful Death Claim When a Minor Is Killed in an Accident

If a child dies in a car accident, the surviving parents have the right to file a wrongful death claim if their child dies as the result of an accident. When filing a wrongful death claim, the family member will bring the wrongful death suit on behalf of their child. Although the child doesn't have to be under the age of 18 for a parent to file a wrongful death suit, the courts sometimes view loss differently if the case involves a minor, especially since parents are deemed financially responsible for children under the age of 18.

Parents or legal guardians may recover damages from any at-fault party that's deemed responsible for the accident.

In the case of wrongful death, the deceased child's parents may legally recover the following damages:

  • All medical bills related to the injury that preceded death
  • Funeral planning and burial expenses
  • Compensation for emotional pain and suffering endured by parents of siblings due to their loved one's absence

If your child has been injured in an accident and you need help filing a personal injury or wrongful death claim, contact the Dellutri Law Group today.