Getting Compensation for Your Child’s Injuries from a Car Accident
Parents or legal guardians of a child injured in a car accident can bring a personal injury lawsuit to court if the child's injuries occurred as the result of the another driver negligently operating their vehicle. In Arizona, you have up to two years to file a personal injury lawsuit from the date the accident occurred (Title 12, Article 3, Secs. 12-541, 12-542). However, this statute of limitations only applies to how long you have to file your case. It does not apply to filing insurance claims with your auto insurance company. If you fail to file a personal injury lawsuit on behalf o your injured child within two years of the accident, you will likely be prohibited from taking your injury claim to court.
Comparative Fault Rule in Arizona
Arizona's pure comparative fault rule permits damaged parties to receive compensation even when they are partially at fault for the accident. Damages are calculated based on the total amount of damages and fault percentages attributed to each party. For example, if your child suffered serious injuries in a car accident, a jury may award you $200,000 for medical bills, auto damage, pain, suffering and lost income. But if the jury decides you are 50 percent responsible for causing the accident (speeding, distracted driving), you will receive only 50 percent of what the jury originally awarded you, or $100,000, per the comparative rule in Arizona.
Statistics Regarding Children Involved in Vehicle Accidents
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation (NHTSA):
- Rollover crashes caused the highest rates of serious/incapacitating injuries to children involved in vehicle accidents.
- Head/brain/spine injuries were the most common injuries affecting children in vehicle accidents.
- Children less than 12 months old experience more head (lacerations, concussions or contusions) and thoracic injuries than other age groups.
- Children between one and three years old and four to seven years old suffered more skull base fractures than children in other age groups.
- Older children (10+ years of age) have more incidences of lung injuries than younger children.
- Incorrectly used child restraint systems (booster and car seats) account for roughly 20 percent of injuries sustained unnecessarily by children in vehicle accidents.
The NHTSA further reports that injury outcomes in children involved in vehicle accidents are worse than those outcomes suffered by adults and older teens. Brain injuries may be especially traumatic to the normal neuropsychological development of young children. Injuries to deeper parts of the brain may not manifest themselves through symptoms until two, three or even five years after the accident. Damage to the frontal lobe, a part of the brain that progressively matures throughout childhood, may not become noticeable to parents until the child experiences puberty. A three year old child suffering a serious concussion and frontal lobe damage in a car accident may suddenly begin having problems with interpersonal skills and social interactions around 12 years old, when no problems had existed before this age.
It is not uncommon for parents to obtain the services of a personal injury lawyer weeks or months after their child is injured in a car accident. This happens simply because many brain injuries are not readily apparent, especially if it is a closed head injury that leaves no visible mark left on the head. Symptoms of possible head trauma in children include severe headaches, unusual irritability, vision loss and speech difficulties.
With so many serious health problems potentially affecting a child's development, it is essential to consider hiring an experienced personal injury lawyer with handling cases involving children sustaining injuries in vehicle accidents.
What is Medical Payments Auto Insurance Coverage?
Medical payments coverage in Arizona is a component of an auto insurance policy that either reimburses you or pays you directly to cover medical expenses incurred by passengers or yourself as the result of a vehicle accident.
Medical payments coverage generally pays these expenses regardless of who is found at fault for the accident. Some medical payments policies may also cover injuries suffered by you, your child or another family member as pedestrians crossing the street. Even though you may have medical payments coverage at the time your child was injured in a vehicle accident, you could still be entitled to file a lawsuit against the negligent driver for compensation not directly involving medical costs.
Legal experts strongly recommend that you contact an accident injury lawyer as soon as possible if you ever find yourself involved in this kind of situation.
How a Personal Injury Lawyer Can Assist You in Receiving Justice for Your Child
If your child is physically and/or psychologically harmed due to another driver's negligence, a seasoned Phoenix car accident attorney can aggressively represent you and your child in court by:
- Performing a thorough accident investigation, gathering admissible evidence and developing a solid case to present to the court.
- Standing up to disingenuous insurance companies that do not have the best interest of your child in mind.
- Managing paperwork hassles, legal forms and medical bills so you can concentrate on your child's needs.
- Enlisting the assistance of medical professionals who can testify to the seriousness of your child's injuries.
- Ensuring you receive the maximum compensation available for paying your child's present and future health care expenses.
Adults and children injured in auto accidents may also be awarded exemplary or punitive damages if the court finds the other driver was acting beyond basic negligence. Reckless, malicious, willful and vindictive behavior are considered grounds for this type of compensation award. An example of "reckless" or "willful" actions includes driving while intoxicated, knowingly operating an unsafe vehicle or causing an accident because they were texting while driving.
Other factors that frequently give courts cause to award punitive damages to parents of children injured in automobile accidents are:
- At-fault drivers deemed incompetent
- Drivers operating their vehicles at excessive speeds
- Drivers who violate traffic laws
- Legally impaired drivers