How Does Virginia Law Address Personal Injury Claims for Minors?

Personal injury claims for children involve unique considerations due to their legal status as minors and their inability to make legal decisions or enter into contracts independently. When a minor is involved in a personal injury claim, the settlement process requires special attention to ensure their best interests are protected.

There are certain elements of personal injury claims for minors that Virginia law addresses differently than adults. One of those elements is the statute of limitations. Normally, an injured party only has two years to file a personal injury claim, but if that injured party is a minor, the statute of limitations is extended to two years after the minor’s 18th birthday.

The following are some other important factors to know about personal injury claims involving minors. For more detailed information and to discuss your child’s case, contact our firm to speak with one of our dedicated Virginia personal injury lawyers.

Guardian or Next Friend

Under Virginia law, minors require a guardian or “next friend” to represent their interests in legal matters. The guardian acts as the legal representative for the minor and is responsible for making decisions on their behalf. This guardian can be a parent, relative, or court-appointed representative.

Court Approval

Virginia law also requires settlements involving minors to be approved by the court to ensure they are fair and adequately protect the minor’s rights. The court’s involvement ensures that the settlement amount is reasonable and the terms are in the best interests of the minor.

When determining the settlement amount, special consideration is given to the damages suffered by the minor. This includes medical expenses, ongoing medical care, rehabilitation, pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of future earning capacity, and any other damages resulting from the injury. The settlement should aim to adequately compensate the minor for their losses and provide for their future needs.

Future Medical Expenses

Personal injury settlements for minors should account for potential future medical expenses, including ongoing treatment, therapy, and specialized care that the minor may require as a result of their injuries. This consideration is essential to ensure the settlement provides adequate financial support for the minor’s long-term healthcare needs.

In some cases, the court may require future settlement modifications if unforeseen circumstances arise, such as changes in the minor’s medical condition or financial needs. This allows for adjustments to the settlement terms to better address the minor’s ongoing needs.

Structured Settlements

The court also has the option of requiring a structured settlement for a minor. A structured settlement provides periodic payments over time rather than a lump sum. This approach ensures that the minor’s financial needs are met throughout their life and helps prevent the risk of mismanagement or depletion of funds.

Appointment of a Guardian Ad Litem

In certain situations, the court may appoint a guardian ad litem, who is an independent representative tasked with protecting the minor’s interests during the legal proceedings. The guardian ad litem’s role is to thoroughly evaluate the settlement offer, advocate for the minor’s rights, and provide an objective assessment of the settlement’s fairness.

Let Our Personal Injury Law Firm Help

Personal injury settlements for minors require careful consideration and adherence to legal requirements to ensure the minor’s well-being and future needs are adequately addressed. By following the appropriate legal procedures and seeking professional guidance, the settlement can provide the necessary financial support for the minor’s recovery, ongoing care, and overall quality of life.

It is crucial for parents or guardians of a minor involved in a personal injury claim to consult with an experienced Virginia personal injury attorney specializing in cases involving minors. At Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp, our attorneys have decades of experience successfully advocating for injured minors, like the $5.5 million truck accident insurance settlement we were able to obtain for one family who suffered severe physical and brain injuries when a commercial truck driver rear-ended their car at a red light in Virginia Beach. The mother and father suffered a range of back and neck injuries, and both of their young daughters experienced traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). Our firm helped the parents locate and fund a structured settlement for their daughter who suffered devastating injuries. The value of the structured arrangement would pay out over $20 million over time.