Parents never want to see their kids hurt, and having children injured in a car accident can be terrifying. As with anyone injured in a car accident because of the negligence of another person, you can get car accident claim compensation for your child being hurt in the crash, too. 

The first thing to understand in such accidents is because the person injured is under 18, he cannot legally file a claim. A person known legally as a “next friend” can file a claim on the child’s behalf. The parent is usually the “next friend” who files the legal claim. No legal proceeding is required to occur for the person to be named a next friend. 

Most states have a statute of limitations of two or three years to file a personal injury lawsuit from the date of injury. But many states statute of limitations does not begin until the child turns 18. Thus, a person injured in a car accident as a minor generally has until age 20 or 21 to file a lawsuit. 

When a child is injured in a car accident, they can be entitled to the following damages: 

  • Medical bills
  • Ongoing medical care
  • Therapy and rehabilitation services
  • Loss of ability to earn a living in the future
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of enjoyment of life

In some accidents, the parents may obtain compensation for the financial losses they incurred, such as the child’s ongoing medical costs. Depending on the case, car accident victims and their family may get punitive damages. These damages are only for very serious accidents where the defendant’s actions were especially dangerous and reckless. Punitive damages are designed to punish defendants and deter others from behaving in a similar manner. 

One difference with a car accident claim involving an injured child is the car accident settlement usually needs to be approved by the court. In Virginia, for example, a circuit court judge typically will approve the child injury settlement. 

During a hearing, the judge will hear testimony to determine if the accident settlement for the child is fair and reasonable. To decide this matter, the court could appoint a guardian ad litem to aid in the process. To help make the decision, the judge may ask questions to stakeholders in the case, such as the parents of the child: 

  • Extent of injuries to the child
  • Current health status
  • Education status
  • Disabilities that were caused by the accident
  • Medical needs and rehabilitation needed in the future

Once the court approves the settlement, the next friend is required to sign off on it. The child is bound by the settlement decision. 

After the settlement is approved, the court has latitude on how funds are dispersed. Depending on the case, minors may receive all of the settlement funds when they turn 18. In other cases, settlements are set up to pay a certain amount of damages per year for a certain time period. If this sort of payout is approved, the court places the funds in a trust. They are dispersed per the settlement structure, beginning on a future date after the child turns 18.