All serious injuries are tragic and painful, disrupting the lives of the injury victim as well as their family for years to come. When a child is the victim of a sudden, catastrophic injury caused by someone else’s negligence or recklessness, however, it can be an especially shattering experience for all involved. For parents, seeing a child suffer, his or her bright and hopeful future suddenly put at risk, and worries about their physical, mental, and emotional development and recovery can be overwhelming.
Many parents who find themselves coping with the trauma and challenges of a severely injured child, or worse, one who has been tragically killed, may have questions about their child’s rights, and their rights, to seek justice and compensation for the harm done to their child. In Georgia, as in most states, minors are not allowed to file lawsuits. As such, the parents of an injured child can sue a potentially liable party both on behalf of their child and on behalf of themselves.
Damages for Children and Their Parents
On behalf of the child, the parents can seek to recover damages for the child’s pain and suffering, permanent disability, loss of earning capacity as an adult, and other damages, while the parents can recover 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 turned 18.
If a child is killed by the wrongful act of another, the parents can bring a wrongful death lawsuit in which they may recover damages for loss of the child’s services, loss of the child’s love and companionship, funeral and medical expenses, including the cost of psychiatric counseling for the parents, as well as any expenses incurred in administering the child’s estate.
Unlike settlements in personal injury lawsuits involving injured adults, settlements involving injuries to minors in Georgia require the approval of others before they can become final, and once they do, certain limits are placed on how, when, and what the funds can be used for.
If the proposed “gross settlement” of a minor’s claim is $15,000 or less, the “natural guardian” of the child (usually the parent) can agree to the settlement without any court approval. The term “gross settlement” means 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. Any settlement above that amount, however, must be approved by the court.
It’s the Child’s Money
It is important to note that the proceeds of any settlement or judgment recovered on behalf of the minor child are in fact the property of the child, imposing certain obligations, limitations and duties on the parents as to when and how those proceeds may be accessed and used prior to the child turning 18. For 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 the parents are to receive more than $15,000.00 at the time of the settlement, they must be bonded as conservators to hold the money until the minor reaches majority.
If your child has been seriously injured or killed in a tragic incident, whether it be a car accident, playground mishap, dog attack, or an incident at a day care center, it is important that you speak with a Georgia personal injury attorney who has experience dealing with the unique issues and challenges involved in handling child injury cases. There are time limits as to when such claims must be filed, so reach out to an attorney as soon after the incident as you can.
Alan Welch Law: Experienced and Compassionate Brunswick Personal Injury Lawyer
If your child has been injured, please give me a call at (912) 265-9811 for a free consultation to discuss your situation. Together, we will figure out what happened, what we can do, and how we can take every possible step to bring you and your child the comfort and compensation that can aid in your family’s recovery.
This article has been prepared by J. Alan Welch Law for informational purposes only and does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice. The information is not provided in the course of an attorney-client relationship and is not intended to substitute for legal advice from an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.