Child Injuries and Personal Injury Lawsuits in Virginia

Most parents will do whatever it takes to keep their children safe. Unfortunately, even the most prepared mom and dad can neither foresee nor prevent every single accident. While most childhood calamities require little more than a hug and a Band-Aid and a hug, some child injuries can be serious, requiring numerous medical treatments and long-term care.

How are personal injury claims for minors different from adult claims?

Virginia law states that parents are permitted to file a personal injury suit on behalf of their minor child. Keep in mind that these claims are usually subject to conditions that, although designed to protect the minor’s rights, might also make it challenging for parents to obtain the financial compensation they need to continue to care for their child.  

If your child was injured in a Virginia personal injury accident, you need to make sure they receive prompt medical care. Once that has been seen to, please contact the experienced Virginia personal injury lawyers at Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp to find out what you can do to protect their rights and their financial future. 

The Statute of Limitations is Different for Child Injuries

Every state has a deadline for filing almost any type of personal injury claim known as the statute of limitations. In Virginia, adults have two years from the day of their accident to file a lawsuit. However, state and federal laws do not allow anyone under the age of 18 to file a lawsuit because they lack the capacity to contract, sign court documents, or hire a lawyer.  

Since minors are unable to independently litigate personal injury claims, they are automatically given an extension to the two-year statute. So, when a minor is injured, they will instead have two years from the day they turn 18 to file a lawsuit. 

Children Are Held to a Different Standard of Negligence

The state of Virginia follows the doctrine of contributory negligence. This doctrine prevents plaintiffs from collecting compensation if they share in any liability for the accident. Under normal circumstances, the term negligence is defined as failing to demonstrate the same duty of care that a reasonable person would have demonstrated under the same or similar circumstances. However, Virginia courts recognize that, due to their inexperience and youth, children are often unable to identify dangers that would be obvious to an adult. 

When evaluating contributory negligence, the state considers the child’s age in the following terms:

  • 6 years old or younger: Cannot be found negligent.
  • 7 years old to 14 years old: Presumed incapable of negligence. However, if the defense presents proof that the minor possessed the mental faculties, experience, or knowledge to assess and avoid a hazardous condition, they could be found negligent and denied compensation. 
  • 14 years old to 18 years old: Negligence will be considered based on how reasonable parties of the same age group would have behaved in the same or similar situation.

Settlements for Child Injury Plaintiffs Have to Be Court-Approved

Once the lawsuit is filed and the minor’s family reaches a settlement with the insurance company or the defendant, they will not be able to collect any money until the court gives its approval. 

Personal injury settlements for minors in Virginia are handled by circuit court judges. When evaluating a potential settlement, the court will usually hear testimony from the parents, the injured child, and the defense to determine if the suggested financial compensation is fair and adequate. 

The court might also interview other affected parties, like the parents, regarding how the child’s injuries have impacted their life. including:

  • Abilities and lifestyle
  • Current health and well-being
  • Education
  • Disabilities
  • Expected long-term care 

Once the court has determined that the proposed settlement is just, they still require the child’s “next friend” (usually the parent or guardian who filed the suit) to give final approval.

Contact a Child Injury Lawyer Today

A serious accident can be devastating to a young child and prevent them from living the life they were meant to. If your child was injured in a Virginia accident, your family may be eligible to collect substantial financial compensation via a personal injury lawsuit. Call the Virginia Beach personal injury law firm of Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp at (833) 997-1774 to schedule your free consultation.

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