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What Happens When Minors Are Injured in Car Accidents?

Posted on in Car Accidents

Wisconsin injury attorney, Wisconsin accident lawyer, Wisconsin car crash attorneyThe statistics on children aged 14 and younger in car accidents are grim. In 2012 in the United States, there were 33,561 fatalities due to traffic accidents, and children aged 14 and younger accounted for three percent of the fatalities (1,168). There were also 169,000 children aged 14 and under injured in car accidents in 2012, and motor vehicle crashes were the leading cause of death for children aged 4, 11, 12, 13, and 14. Wisconsin is not immune from these incidents, and many Milwaukee families find themselves unsure as to what to do when their minor child is injured in an accident.

Bringing a Lawsuit

The good news is that you do have recourse if your child sustains injuries in a car accident. A child who is injured because of the negligence of another driver has his or her own cause of action. This allows minors to maintain lawsuits for their injuries, including medical expenses and any other out-of-pocket costs.

Minors do not have the authority to sign legal papers, nor do they have the ability to hire a lawyer in the first instance. Children also do not have the authorization to request their own medical records and bills, to file lawsuits, or to sign settlement papers. Because of the limitations on what minor children can or cannot do, any case for damages must be pursued by the injured child’s parents or guardian. If the case does not settle and it becomes necessary to file a lawsuit, a guardian ad litem will be appointed by the court to advocate for the child’s best interests during the lawsuit.

If there is a settlement agreement between the minor child and the defendant, generally a minor settlement hearing occurs.  This happens because the terms of the settlement cannot be enforced at a later date against the minor unless a judge approves its validity after a full hearing.

Statute of Limitations

Accident cases involving adults in Wisconsin generally carry a three-year statute of limitations. For any minor child injured in an accident, the statute of limitations is different, and can sometimes be much longer. Wisconsin law states that for minor children in accidents, a lawsuit must be filed within two years of the injured minor’s 18th birthday. This means that if a nine-year-old child sustains injuries in a car accident, a lawsuit must be commenced by the time the child turns 20 years old, so in a case like this, there is an 11-year statute of limitations. The purpose of this is to protect claims for damages to which a minor was entitled if there is no responsible grown-up who brings the claim on their behalf. This does not apply in cases where the minor dies in a car accident, or dies after the fact due to injuries. In such cases, the statute of limitations will either be three years or two years, respectively.

This area of the law can be extremely complicated, and it is fraught with emotion. An experienced and compassionate Milwaukee personal injury attorney at our office will help you navigate these confusing roads, and recover for damages sustained by your child. Call us at 414-271-1440 or send us an email today for a consultation.

Sources:

http://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/statutes/statutes/893/V/54

http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/812011.pdf

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