If your child suffers injuries in a motor vehicle accident, while in the care of another individual, or while participating in an activity, it’s often shocking and stressful. Naturally, as their parent, you want to make sure your child is not hurt or, if they have suffered harm, to make everything better as soon as possible.
Children get hurt all the time, and it’s a normal part of growing up. However, it’s extremely difficult to accept when a negligent third party injures your child. When this happens, parents should speak with an experienced lawyer who handles child injury claims.
Even though no parent or guardian desires to involve their child in litigation, hiring an experienced Houston child injury lawyer for your child’s injuries is in your and your child’s best interest. They can help your child obtain full and fair compensation for their injuries and losses while protecting you and your child from further trauma.
At Stewart J. Guss, Injury Accident Lawyers, we’ve represented many injured children and their parents in our more than 20 years of experience. We are a national law firm based in Houston with multiple offices around the country. We also work with affiliate law firms in most states that share our focus and dedication to excellence. No matter where you are located, we may be able to help you, so call or contact us now. We are open, for free, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at 800-898-4877, or you may contact us now by clicking here to submit your case for review.
We know that this is a difficult time, and we are here to support you in any way we can while we fight for justice on your behalf.
Why Should You Choose Stewart J. Guss Injury Accident Lawyers?
At Stewart J. Guss Injury Accident Lawyers, we know you have many choices when it comes to personal injury lawyers. We are confident that we can provide you with the legal representation you need to have the best outcome possible in your child’s injury claim.
Here are just some of the reasons our clients choose us:
- We have over two decades of experience.
- We are client-centered
- We have the time and resources to work on your case now.
- We have several office locations throughout Texas and other states.
- We will only take your case if we know we can serve you.
- If necessary, we can make house calls, hospital visits, or meet our potential clients wherever is convenient for their physical condition.
- We offer all potential clients free consultations.
- We are skilled negotiators.
- If you need to receive full and fair compensation, we aren’t afraid to take your case to trial.
If your child suffered an injury that another person or party caused, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us for help. We can help you recover the money you deserve.
Child Injury Claims: An Overview of What Parents Should Know
Texas personal injury cases involving minors are different in many ways from those with adult victims. Therefore, you need to understand these differences and nuances before pursuing a claim on behalf of your child.
Under Texas laws, a child or a minor less than 18 years of age is a person under disability, meaning they aren’t capable of taking any legal action on their own. Although a statute of limitations (SOL) or deadline for filing a claim begins to run on the day the victim suffered injuries, it’s not the same for children in most personal injury cases.
Because your child is under disability, their SOL likely won’t begin to run until a later date. However, this doesn’t change the fact that it’s best to contact a Houston child injury attorney as soon as possible after learning of your child’s injury.
Every injury case is different. If your child sustained injuries due to third-party negligence, consult a Houston child injury lawyer immediately so you do not miss the deadlines for pursuing litigation against that party.
In addition, if you, as the parent or guardian, experienced economic losses arising from your child’s injuries, you must pursue a case for your own damages before the deadline expires. If you don’t settle or file a legal claim within the legally allotted deadline, you can forever lose the right to pursue compensation for your own economic losses.
While you, as an adult, have the right to receive your compensation now, your child doesn’t. Typically, when an adult gets an out-of-court settlement from an insurance company, all they need to do is sign a release to receive their check compensating them for their damages. For a minor, a judge must approve the settlement before the insurance company pays it.
Types of Houston Child Injury Claims
Nearly anywhere a child happens to be, they have the potential to suffer an injury. Of course, many injuries such as scraped knees, broken arms, bruised shins, and the like are a normal part of growing up. But many other injuries aren’t. Instead, they are the result of someone’s negligence.
Houston child injury claims can happen in any of the following circumstances:
- Car Accident – If your child was a passenger in a motor vehicle and had injuries as a result of a collision, you may be legally entitled to seek monetary recovery for their losses from the at-fault party.
- Bicycle Accident – It is a rite of passage for a child to ride a bike, but once they start, it creates a new risk of accidents and injuries. Even if a child has all the proper protective gear and an approved helmet, a driver hitting them on a bike can cause devastating injuries to a child’s smaller body.
- Pedestrian Accident – Children are smaller and more difficult to see, which makes it easier for a distracted or speeding driver to hit a child pedestrian. Whether a child is walking to or from school or simply playing in the neighborhood, they risk catastrophic injuries from pedestrian accidents.
- Bus Accident – Many children ride the school bus five days a week, twice a day during the school year. While the school bus is a relatively safe form of transportation, accidents do happen, and children sustain serious injuries, especially since most children do not wear seat belts on the bus.
- Boat Accident – Boating is one of the most popular pastimes for Texas residents and visitors. Children often participate in this relaxing and often exhilarating activity. Unfortunately, sometimes they sustain injuries due to property owner negligence or negligent supervision.
- Attractive Nuisance – An attractive nuisance is an object or circumstance that entices a child into a dangerous situation. Since they aren’t adults, they don’t typically understand the gravity of their actions and the danger involved. Attractive nuisance examples include machinery, animals, swimming pools, ponds, lakes, boats, and motor vehicles.
- Childcare – If your child was in the care of another individual or was at a daycare and sustained an injury due to the conditions of the daycare facility or lack of supervision, you may have a viable negligence claim.
- Negligent Supervision – If your child suffered injuries while in the care of another person because that person failed to exercise reasonable care and control over your child, you might recover damages for your child’s injuries.
- School Accidents – If your child suffered an injury at school because of another person’s negligence, you might recover damages for their injuries. School-related injuries can include slip and fall on school property, school bus collisions, or sports-related incidents. However, as most schools are public institutions, the negligent party likely has protections under government liability rules in child injury cases. If a child suffered injuries at a public school, you must provide a formal notice to the school district or other overseeing government body within 180 days of the date of your child’s injury.
No matter what accident injured your child, have a child injury attorney evaluate your case for free. You might not realize that you have the right to compensation for all of your child’s injury-related losses.
Types Personal Injuries Houston Children Sustain
Thankfully, childhood unintentional injury fatality rates declined 11 percent from 2010 to 2019. However, injury is still the leading cause of death for children and teenagers in the U. S. Over 7,000 children and teenagers ages 0-19 died due to unintentional injuries in one recent year, which comes out to about 20 deaths every day.
Leading causes of unintentional childhood injury include:
- Motor vehicle crashes
- Animal bites or attacks
The sad reality is that child injuries are often preventable. The negligence of others often contributes to these injuries and even some fatalities.
Common child personal injuries include:
- Burns of varying degrees which are typically thermal, scalding, or contact
- Broken bones or fractures of the arms, legs, ribs, pelvis, skull, wrists, and feet
- Head injuries, including concussions or traumatic brain injuries (TBI)
- Spinal cord injuries (SCI), which can cause paralysis and disability
- Neck injuries, including whiplash
- Deep bruising and hematomas
- Lacerations, abrasions, and puncture wounds such as from animal bites or stepping on a sharp object
- Sprains and strains
- Limb loss and amputations
- Internal injuries, such as bleeding and organ damage
- Injuries that leave permanent scarring and disfigurement
Whether the injury occurred in a low-impact fender bender or an aggressive slip and fall, the duration of recovery and medical treatment that a child’s physical injuries may necessitate can significantly impact their normal growth and development. If a child suffers permanent, long-term effects from accidental injuries, it will affect their quality of life profoundly.
Elements of Negligence in a Child Injury Lawsuit
Most personal injury lawsuits, including those involving children, are based on negligence. Negligence is a failure to act or behave the way a prudent person would in a similar situation.
A negligence lawsuit arising from your child’s injuries will need to establish the following elements to succeed:
- Duty – The other party must have had a duty to exercise reasonable care. However, the duty varies depending on the situation and the negligent party.
- Breach of Duty – The negligent party must have breached or violated their duty of care by committing an act or failing to act in a particular way.
- Causation – The breach of duty must have been an actual and proximate cause of your child’s injuries.
- Damages – Your child must have also sustained compensable damages, such as pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and medical expenses, because of the negligent party’s breach.
Furthermore, your Houston child injury attorney must prove each of these elements by a preponderance of the evidence to receive damages for your child’s injuries. A preponderance of the evidence is a burden of proof satisfied only if the evidence weighs more in your favor (at least 51 percent) than not.
The Statute of Limitations for Child Injury Lawsuits
The typical deadline, or statute of limitations, to file a personal injury lawsuit in Texas is two years from the date of the circumstances causing the injury. However, if the injured person is less than 18 years of age when they suffer harm, the deadline to file a lawsuit for the injury is tolled or paused and doesn’t start until the victim turns 18. Thus, the deadline to file a lawsuit for an injured minor is two years from the injured person’s 18th birthday.
However, it’s crucial to note that the tolling of the statute of limitations for a minor doesn’t apply to claims that legal adults have for the child’s injury. When a minor child has injuries, the minor’s parents or guardians usually incur medical bills.
These expenses are economic damages for the adult who incurred them, rather than the minor. As such, the deadline to file a lawsuit to recover these economic expenses does not toll. Adults with damages stemming from a minor’s injury must file their claim within two years of the date of the child’s injury, not two years from the date the minor turns 18.
Parents and guardians can also pursue damages for their non-economic losses such as mental anguish and emotional suffering. Typically, parents include these damages in their child’s lawsuit. However, if they choose, they can file their own lawsuit and allow their child to take legal action if the child wants to once they are of legal age to do so.
If the applicable statute of limitations expires and no one files a claim, the parties with damages will lose their legal right to obtain compensation. You can avoid missing this crucial deadline by contacting a seasoned Houston child injury lawyer as soon as possible after learning of your child’s injury.
Fatal Accidents Involving Children
No one wants to think of the possibility of their child suffering a fatal injury. Unfortunately, many parents go through this trauma, as unintentional injuries are the leading cause of death in the United States for children over age one.
Consider the following deaths from accidental injuries that occurred in one recent year:
- 1,226 between ages one and four
- 734 between ages five and nine
- 692 between ages ten and 14
- 12,044 between ages 15 and 24
Some of the most common fatal accidental injuries stem from motor vehicle accidents, falls, drowning, and suffocation. Young people regularly suffer fatal injuries, and parents must face this tragic loss, which can include both emotional and financial losses.
Texas law defines wrongful deaths as those that result from someone else’s neglect, carelessness, wrongful act, default, or unskillfulness. If another person or company’s conduct led to your child’s death, you have the right to seek damages by filing a wrongful death claim. The financial recovery you might receive will depend on the nature and extent of your losses.
Nothing can ever replace your child, but seeking compensation from the liable parties can ease your future financial stress and give you more of a sense of justice by holding those parties accountable. Never hesitate to reach out to our Houston child injury lawyers, who will handle your wrongful death claim with the compassion and dedication your family deserves. We are ready to support you in this devastating time.
Houston Child Injury FAQs
At Stewart J. Guss Injury Accident Lawyers, we know that your questions regarding personal injury claims are pressing, especially when a child is involved. That’s why we offer complimentary consultations to review the facts of your claim and help you take the next logical steps. In addition, our attorneys have answered several of our FAQs below to help you understand more about child personal injury claims in Texas.
Who Can File an Injury Claim for a Child in Texas?
Texas law requires another party to represent the child. Individuals 18 and younger can’t file injury claims or settle lawsuits. A competent adult, known as a next friend, must file on the child’s behalf. A next friend is a qualified adult who represents a minor child who can’t legally represent themselves in court.
Next friends are typically:
- One parent
- Both parents
- A legal guardian
- A court-appointed lawyer
However, nearly anyone can stand in to be your child’s next friend. Keep in mind that some Texas courts will appoint a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) to represent a child’s best interests in court, even though their next friend represents their case.
What Is a Guardian Ad Litem?
In personal injury cases involving injured children, the judge appoints an attorney to serve as the guardian ad litem (meaning duration of the case in Latin). They work for the court and not the parent or their Houston child injury attorney. Their job is to represent the child and advise the court whether the insurance company’s settlement is fair and in the child’s best interest. The guardian ad litem (GAL) has the legal duty to investigate the claim and draft a report to the judge.
Typically, this involves the GAL meeting and talking to the parents and the other attorneys involved by phone to understand the case details.
The GAL will then study and take into consideration:
- The police report
- Itemization of the settlement proceeds
- Insurance policy declaration pages
- Other pertinent evidence
The GAL will also need to consider if the child will have any future medical expenses and how and when to allocate those funds.
A GAL isn’t a substitute for a parent, next friend, or attorney, but appears independently in the matter to represent the child’s best interest.
What if a Toy or Other Consumer Product Injured Your Child?
Sometimes children can suffer injuries from defective toys, clothing, furniture, playground equipment, bikes, scooters, baby products, and other consumer items. Often, these are viable defective product cases. This means that the product was either designed wrong, manufactured wrong, was advertised wrong, or lacked proper safety warnings. Just because you don’t know exactly what was wrong with the product or who is to blame doesn’t mean you don’t have a child injury case.
If a product injures your child, save the product if you can and contact an experienced Houston child injury lawyer as soon as possible. They can help you investigate what happened and who might be liable for your child’s injuries.
What Is a Minor Settlement Prove-up Hearing?
The court must approve settlements involving a minor’s injury claim. The court must hold a hearing to consider all relevant evidence about the settlement before it can approve it. These requirements protect the minor’s interests and ensure a fair settlement.
In general, the court needs to make sure that:
- The full settlement amount is appropriate considering the nature and severity of the minor child’s injuries.
- The minor received appropriate medical evaluations and treatment for their injuries to prevent the possibility that other undiagnosed injuries directly related to their claim are not factors in the settlement.
- The settlement’s distribution between the minor and their parent, guardian, or next friend is fair to the minor child.
- The Houston child injury attorney isn’t charging an excessive fee for representing the minor.
Where Does the Minor’s Money Go?
The settlement funds for an injured minor in the state of Texas will usually belong to the minor and not their parents. Texas courts make great efforts to protect the child’s interest.
Until the child reaches the age of 18 (or is emancipated before that), they can’t personally receive the money. However, in some extraordinary circumstances, courts have the discretion to release some of the money before that time. Here is what generally happens to a minor’s settlement:
Registry of the Court
- Suppose the settlement is small, typically under $10,000 or so. In that case, setting up an annuity is cost prohibitive, as the expense outweighs the advantages. In these cases, the defendants deposit the money into the registry of the court, which is basically a secure bank account.
- The settlement funds belong to the minor and the parents cannot spend them unless the court makes an unusual exception. Even still, the child’s parents have a legal obligation to support their children. They can’t use that money for living expenses.
- The money will accrue interest in the bank account. Once the child reaches the age of 18, they can bring proof of age to the county’s accounting department and withdraw their funds.
- Alternatively, at the age of 18, the child can otherwise file suit against the at-fault party for damages. This is an option since the statute of limitations tolls until the child’s 18th birthday.
If the settlement is larger, it’s best to hire an annuity broker specializing in personal injury cases. They can quote different options for how the funds can grow and be distributed at the best times for the child.
One prevalent choice is referred to as “the college plan.” This plan divides the payments equally over four years, either annually, semi-annually, or monthly. Parents may not want their child to get their money until a later age. Parents, the Houston child injury attorney, and the guardian ad litem can make these arrangements. Larger settlements may become lifetime benefits at specific stages of life.
A broker will only invest the money with a top-rated national financial institution. The interest rate will be higher than it is with the registry of the court. Another advantage is that the principal and interest will be received tax-free, although the broker will receive a small fee. Parents cannot place the money in the stock market or other risky investments.
One area of concern for many Texas parents is what happens to their individual damages when their child suffers injuries—for example, their lost wages from missing work to care for their child.
Texas courts seem to view a parent’s obligation as coming with the territory. However, many courts are even disinclined to reimburse the parents for out-of-pocket medical expenses from a child’s settlement. The judge gets the final say in how to handle the money in the case, except that any settlement proceeds must pay hospital liens.
What Damages Can You Seek in a Child Injury Case?
In most child injury cases, children are legally entitled to seek compensation for the same types of damages as injured adults. In addition, children can recover compensation for economic or special damages and non-economic or general damages.
Economic damages a child or their parents might be entitled to receive include:
- Reimbursement for medical expenses, including hospitalizations, surgeries, medications, therapies, and specialist care
- Compensation for future medical expenses or personal care
- Compensation for future decreases in earning potential or loss of income
Non-economic damages in child injury cases might include:
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Disability and permanent impairment
- Physical, emotional, and mental pain and suffering
- Psychological injuries, including depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety disorders, and fear
- Loss of quality of life or enjoyment of life
The child’s parents or guardians might also obtain compensation for their lost income and wages if they had to take time off work to care for their child. In the tragic event of a death, the parents may also recover wrongful death benefits.
Call Our Compassionate and Experienced Houston Child Injury Attorneys Today
Injured children and their parents have the right to seek compensation for injuries just as adult victims do. However, settling a child’s injury claim is no doubt more complicated than adult injury claims.
A child’s injuries can cause a great deal of stress for parents, not only over their child’s recovery from their injuries but also making sure that they are doing the right thing from a legal perspective on behalf of their child.
Many legal differences exist between adult and child injury claims.
- The statute of limitations does not begin until the child turns 18 years of age
- The court must approve settlements
- Someone must file the lawsuit on behalf of the child
Adding another layer to child injury claims is the distribution of their settlement funds. There are several different options for a child’s compensation, and some settlement offers even stipulate which options are available. Mishandling the funds can hurt the child’s financial future and even lead to legal consequences.
Personal injury law can be challenging to navigate for someone without much legal experience. If the injured party is a minor child, the circumstances become even more involved. Most parents and legal guardians turn to a well-versed personal injury attorney for help handling a child injury settlement.
At Stewart J. Guss Injury Accident Lawyers, we know what it’s like to worry about an injured child or how you will pay their medical bills. No parent should have to face these worries alone. We are here for you.
The legal team of Stewart J. Guss, Injury Accident Lawyers, is nationally recognized for protecting the rights of injured victims for more than 20 years. If someone injured your child, call our office right now for a free consultation! Because we take all of our child injury cases on a contingency fee basis, you will not owe us a dime unless we win your case. We are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so call us today at 800-898-4877 or contact us now by clicking here.
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See what past clients have to say:
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“Mr. Guss was wonderful. He fought hard against the insurance company to get us what we deserved. I went from owing almost $5000 in medical bills to actually getting money in my pocket. Absolutely Amazing!!!!! A big thank you from me and my family!!!” -Karley B.
Since starting his firm in 1999, Stewart J. Guss has had the honor of representing clients from all over the world, helping them recover from even the most catastrophic injuries.
Today, thanks to a strong belief in those values of compassion, respect, and approachability, the firm has grown to employ over 120 legal professionals in numerous offices across 4 states, with nationwide reach.