The Statute of Limitations for a Child Injured in an Auto Accident

In many personal injury lawsuits, determining when the statute of limitations is for the victim to file suit is vitally important; once that date has passed, the car accident victim has lost the chance to pursue damages against the negligent party. 
 
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This is a particularly contentious issue when the person who is injured in the accident is a minor. Our Virginia personal injury attorneys were once contacted by the mother of a child who had serious car accident injuries more than 15 years ago. At the time of the car accident, several attorneys told her that no suit could be filed until two years after the child became 18. 
 
Under Virginia's laws, the statute of limitations for a personal injury case is two years. But with an injury to a minor, the clock does not start until the minor is 18. The Virginia Code states an injured minor is an infant and is 'disabled' until they are 18. The law states that the statute of limitations should be paused until the 18th birthday. 
 
Although this is the law for filing a car accident lawsuit involving a minor, we do not recommend waiting until 18. This is especially the case where the child was very young when the accident happened, as was the case in the aforementioned situation. Reasons to not wait to file suit include: 
 
  • Finding evidence can be very difficult after many years pass
  • Collecting appropriate medical records may present challenges
  • Witnesses to the accident may not remember or may be deceased
  • The minor's memory of the incident may not exist, including pain and suffering endured after the accident
There is no need to wait until the minor's 18 birthday to file a Virginia personal injury lawsuit. It can be done by a parent under Virginia Code 8.01-8 as the minor's best friend. 
 
When a personal injury lawsuit is filed in this manner involving a minor, pursued damages shall be non-economic ones, such as pain and suffering and emotional anguish. Medical costs and economic losses are not covered because it is probable the parents of the child covered those expenses. 
 
The parents should file a separate personal injury lawsuit in their name against the negligent party, but the statute of limitations in this matter is different. You should speak to a Virginia personal injury attorney to understand what the relevant statute of limitations is. 
Richard N. Shapiro
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Personal Injury & Wrongful Death Lawyer Serving Va Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake & all of Virginia