You are driving on Interstate 64 headed home to Virginia Beach from Williamsburg. The car behind you rams into the back of your vehicle. You are okay, but your 12-year-old child sitting in the back seat suffered serious injuries. Can your child file a personal injury lawsuit against the negligent driver?
This is an issue our team of Virginia car accident attorneys deal with in numerous cases – the legal rights of injured minor children. In fact, we published an in-depth special report discussing the legal rights of minors seriously hurt in accidents. Download your copy here.
The Virginia legislature enacted laws that provide additional safeguards for children in the context of personal injury lawsuits. Here are five important facts to know if your child was seriously hurt in a car accident, truck wreck, or any other type of accident.
1. Your Child Cannot File Their Own Personal Injury Lawsuit
Under Virginia law, someone under the age of 18 is considered to be an “infant”. An infant does not have the capacity to file a lawsuit in their own name. This means that if a child has a personal injury case, they may only file a lawsuit through a “next friend.” This can include a parent or a legal guardian. See Virginia Code § 8.01-8, 1-207.
2. The Statute of Limitations is Extended for a Child
An adult must file a personal injury lawsuit within two years of the date of the alleged harm. If a child suffers an injury, the statute of limitations does not expire until the child’s 20th birthday. The statute of limitations is “tolled” (i.e. put on hold) until your child turns 18. They then get two years after turning 18 to file a personal injury lawsuit. See Virginia Code §8.01-229.
3. The Child's Medical Bills Go to the Parents
Parents are responsible for the medical bills of their children, so when a child is injured and files a personal injury action, the child cannot claim the medical bills as damages. The child’s parents are the party that can file a claim for the losses they have incurred as a result of paying medical bills. See Virginia Code § 8.01-36.
4. A Settlement of a Personal Injury Lawsuit May Require Court Approval
Let’s say an auto insurance claims adjuster offers you $25,000 for your child’s claim. You agree to the settlement. For adults, that may be the end of their personal injury claim. However, for a child personal injury claim, a settlement will probably require the approval of a court before going into effect. This is to ensure the settlement agreement is deemed to be appropriate and reasonable for the well-being of the child.
5. Upon Court Approval, the Child Will Not Receive Any Funds Until They Become a Legal Adult
If a Virginia court approves a settlement, then the funds will be paid to the Clerk of the Court and held until the child reaches the age of majority (i.e. 18). There are some exceptions to this requirement. For example, if the child is legally emancipated, then the court can release the money directly to the child. If the child is not emancipated, the court can also allow the money to be paid to a parent to be held in trust for the child. If the court decides to hold the funds, the child will need to appear before the court when they turn 18 and the funds will be released to them.
Contact an Experienced Virginia Auto Accident Lawyer Today
We hope you found this article to be helpful and informative. If you have further questions about your child’s potential personal injury case, contact our firm by filling out a quick contact form or by calling us at 1-800-752-0042.