Children are among the most vulnerable members of society. As a result, many drivers, property owners, and school officials have a legal duty to protect them. If they fail in this duty, and a child becomes injured, the person responsible may be liable to provide compensation. Children have the same rights as adults to demand payments for their losses in common personal injury cases, including dog bites, slips and falls, or car accidents, although there are some procedural differences in how the case proceeds, due to the minor’s young age.
A State College child injury lawyer is dedicated to protecting the rights of children and families following personal injuries. An experienced personal injury attorney could establish the right of protection that the child enjoyed at the time of the incident and gather the evidence needed to prove how a defendant failed to provide that protection.
Children as Plaintiffs in Civil Claims
Children have the same rights as adults to pursue compensation from negligent defendants. However, a child’s claims must be pursued by the parent or legal guardian, on behalf of a minor. If a defendant is at fault for an accident, he or she has an obligation to provide compensation to all injured parties regardless of age.
In many cases, this duty may be enhanced. For instance, a store owner should know that children are less likely to avoid hazards or may be unable to read a sign advising caution. Those owners must take more direct measures to provide protection and prevent harm. A State College lawyer could help the parents of injured children to evaluate their rights to demand compensation following an injury.
Common Injuries to Minors
In some accidents, multiple defendants could be liable, such as in the event of a school bus crash. The driver of that bus, as well as the school district, assumes a duty to protect the children. If a driver is negligent and causes an accident that results in a child being harmed, the driver, bus company, and district may all be liable.
Children may also suffer injuries because of the criminal acts of others. Unfortunately, children are exposed to the abuse of coaches, teachers, religious leaders, and other mentors. While these assailants are certainly subject to criminal prosecution, their employing agencies may share the blame in a civil lawsuit.
There are special laws that impart legal liability to defendants if the plaintiff is a child, even if the defendant would not be liable if the claimant was an adult. A prominent example is the idea of an attractive nuisance. Normally, landowners are only liable to trespassers on their land if the landowner intentionally causes harm. However, a landowner may be liable towards a minor trespasser under limited circumstances.
Pursuant to Long v. Manzo, 682. A.2d 370 (Pa. Super. 1996), a landowner may be liable for an injury to a trespassing child due to an artificial condition if:
- The place where the condition is maintained is one where the owner knows children are likely to trespass;
- The condition is one that the owner knows is capable of inflicting serious bodily harm or death;
- The children are unable to recognize the danger because of their age;
- The utility of maintaining the condition and burden of eliminating danger are slight compared to the risk to the child; and
- The landowner fails to exercise reasonable care to remove the danger or protect the child.
One common example of an attractive nuisance is an unfenced swimming pool. Children may be inclined to go into these areas and not know any better because of their age. An owner should take appropriate steps to fence off the area so that wandering children are unable to enter. A State College attorney could help pursue claims that are unique to injured children.
What Recoverable Damages May Be Available?
Once a plaintiff has established liability on someone else’s part for an injury suffered by the child, the liable defendant may be held accountable for both economic and non-economic damages. Recoverable economic damages typically include expenses paid for past medical care, as well as expected costs of treatments an injured child may need in the future and loss of future potential to earn income.
Non-economic damages, on the other hand, generally cover the physical pain and emotional suffering a minor experiences as a result of a serious injury, including loss of enjoyment of life and loss of future opportunities due to permanent disability or disfigurement. A child injury attorney could offer further clarification about what damages may be available in a particular case.
What Filing Deadlines Apply to Minors?
Since minor children cannot pursue civil litigation on their own behalf, the statute of limitations for this type of claim is longer than it would be for an injury suffered by an adult under identical circumstances. While an adult in State College generally has only two years to file suit after discovering he or she suffered a personal injury, that two-year filing period does not begin for a child’s injury until the child in question reaches the age of 18. In other words, the practical deadline for most child injury claims is the child’s 20th birthday.
Can Children Bear Comparative Fault for an Accident?
Generally speaking, very young children cannot be considered partially or primarily at fault for any personal injury, including their own, as they do not have the mental or emotional maturity necessary to identify all possible dangers or understand the consequences of their own actions. If an older prepubescent child gets hurt, though, a defendant may have some success arguing that the minor should have known to avoid an obviously dangerous hazard. By the time a child becomes a teenager, he or she is generally considered cognizant enough to be treated as adults in the context of civil liability, so comparative fault may limit potential recovery.
Contact a State College Child Injury Attorney for Guidance
Whenever a child suffers an injury, it can affect the entire family. That child may require extensive medical treatment, suffer emotional trauma, and miss school or other activities. That child and his or her parents have the right to demand compensation to make up for all these losses.
A State College child injury lawyer could help injured children and their families pursue at-fault defendants for the payments needed to set things right. Schedule a consultation with a skilled attorney at Marcus & Mack today.