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Does a Toddler Have Legal Rights to Sue After a Car Crash?

A head-on collision in Pitt County, North Carolina (NC), sent three adults and a toddler to the hospital with serious injuries. The crash on Stantonsburg Road between Greenville and Bell Arthur surely left the 2-year-old child’s parents concerned about insurance issues and medical bills.

 

 

Police received the first reports of the two-vehicle crash at around 2:30 pm on April 20, 2018. They responded to the scene near the intersection of Stantonsburg Road and Stocks Lane and found all four people in both vehicle hurt. One adult and the young child remained hospitalized through the weekend.

Investigators could not immediately determine why the head-on collision occurred. No assignment of fault was made, and no traffic citations were issued. Since the two-lane road curves sharply at the site of the crash, it is likely that one or both drivers crossed the double yellow center line while going too fast or while they were distracted.

Regardless of what the official police report on this Pitt County head-on declares, the badly injured 2-year-old child should have his or her medical bills covered. As Carolina personal injury lawyers, my colleagues and I know that North Carolina, like other states, gives children legal rights separate from the rights of their parents or legal guardians. One of the things this means is that the child has standing to seek compensation and damages from the driver who caused the crash that left the child injured.

While an adult must act on the child’s behalf, insurance companies and courts will treat the toddler who got hurt in this crash near Greenville as the actual insurance claimant or lawsuit plaintiff, no different from an adult passenger. That equal treatment will be especially important if it turns out that the 2-year-old’s parent or guardian is found to be at fault.

In such an instance, the child would be empowered to file a claim against his or her parent or guardian’s car insurance. As we note elsewhere on our website, “If a family member driving a motor vehicle is careless or negligent and winds up injuring their relative who is a young child or teen, the child/teen may bring a claim under the law against their own parent or family member.”

A lawyer or relative other than the child’s parent would need to handle the actual paperwork and, if necessary, appear in court since the parent named as the defendant -- or “tortfeasor” in legal jargon -- would have a conflict of interest. But the result would be that the family would not need to forgo coverage for the toddler’s injuries.

EJL

Randall E. Appleton
Personal Injury & Wrongful Death Lawyer Serving Va Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake & all of Virginia
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