Personal Injury Cases Involving Minors: What Parents Need to Know 

When a child is injured due to someone else’s negligence, parents are faced with a whirlwind of emotions. The emotional toll and the burden of unexpected medical expenses can be extremely overwhelming, and they may be understandably confused about what they should be doing and who they can turn to for advice.

In Illinois, while minors (children under the age of 18) themselves cannot initiate a lawsuit, there are provisions for parents to step in and seek justice. This process allows parents to act as advocates for their child, ensuring they receive the compensation they deserve for their injuries. 

This article aims to shed light on these aspects, providing parents with the information they need to navigate these challenging circumstances and ensure the best possible outcome for their child.

Understanding Personal Injury Cases for Minors

When a minor is involved in a personal injury case, the legal landscape shifts significantly from that of an adult’s situation. It is vital for parents and guardians to understand these differences to effectively advocate for their child’s rights and well-being. 

These cases not only involve complex legal considerations but also carry a deep emotional impact. Knowledge of the specific laws, the special limitations for a lawsuit brought on behalf of a minor, and rights that apply to minors in personal injury cases is essential. 

Types of Injuries and Accidents Involving Minors

Minors are susceptible to various types of accidents and injuries. These can include, but are not limited to, the following:

    • Car Accidents — As passengers or pedestrians, children are often victims of automotive collisions.
    • Sports Injuries Participation in sports can lead to injuries ranging from sprains and broken bones to serious head traumas.
    • Dog Bites — Children are more likely to suffer dog bites, which can lead to a more serious injury.
    • Falls — Falls, especially from playground equipment, are a leading cause of injury in younger children.
    • Drowning Accidental drowning poses a significant risk, particularly for young children.
    • Other Common Accidents — These can include bicycle accidents, burns, and even poisoning.
  • Medical Malpractice This encompasses errors by healthcare professionals that result in injury to a child, often occurring during birth. These can include misdiagnosis, prescription mistakes, surgical errors, premature hospital discharge, and failure to inform parents about the risks of a procedure.

Seeking Compensation for a Child’s Injury

In Illinois, when a child is injured due to someone else’s negligence, compensation can be sought in two primary ways. 

  1. A claim can be filed against the liability insurance policy of the person at fault. If the insurance provider does not offer adequate compensation, then a personal injury lawsuit can be filed.
  2. Since minors under the age of 18 cannot legally file a claim themselves, parents usually have to initiate this process on their behalf. The specifics of the process can vary based on the unique circumstances of each case and the type of claim being filed.

Filing a Claim for a Child in Illinois

When filing a personal injury lawsuit for a minor, the legal process involves several key steps and considerations:

  • Initiation of the Lawsuit A parent or legal guardian typically files the lawsuit on behalf of the minor.
  • Appointment of a Representative — In some cases, the court may appoint a Guardian Ad Litem to represent the minor’s interests.
  • Court Oversight — Many jurisdictions require court approval for settlements involving minors to ensure their interests are protected.
  • Statute of Limitations This timeframe may be extended for minors, often until they reach the age of majority.
  • Management of Settlements Funds awarded are typically held in a trust or structured settlement to benefit the minor until they come of age.

Each step in this process safeguards the minor’s rights and ensures any legal actions are in their best interest.

Parental Rights and Responsibilities

In personal injury cases involving minors, parents play a critical role. They typically have the legal right to file lawsuits on behalf of their minor children, acting as their representatives in legal matters. However, there are certain responsibilities and limitations attached to this role. 

  • Parents must act in the best interest of their child, ensuring that any legal action taken is for the child’s benefit. This includes making informed decisions about legal representation, settlements, and any legal strategies. 
  • In some cases, if deemed appropriate, a court may appoint a Guardian Ad Litem to represent the child’s interests.
  • Additionally, in some jurisdictions, settlements might require court approval to ensure they are in the minor’s best interest. 
  • Parents should also be aware of the legal nuances and limitations specific to their state or county.

The Statue of Limitations

In Illinois, when filing a claim for a child’s injury, the statute of limitations is a key consideration. 

  • Two-Year Statue of Limitations Generally, the parent or guardian must file a claim within two years of the injury. After the child turns 18, they have two years to file a lawsuit themselves. This means they have until they are 20 years old. This extension is critical as it provides additional time to recognize and address injuries that may not be immediately apparent in childhood, ensuring that the rights of the minor are adequately protected.
  • Exception for Medical Malpractice Cases — In cases involving medical malpractice, the statute of limitations is different. For these cases, generally, the claim must be filed within eight years of the date of the injury but before the child turns 22 years old. However, the statute of limitations analysis for minor medical malpractice plaintiffs is highly nuanced and fact-specific, which is why it is critical to consult an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible. It is essential to note these distinctions as they affect the timeframe within which legal action can be initiated.

Factors to Consider in Personal Injury Cases Involving Minors

When a child experiences a severe injury, it can lead to long-term consequences. They might need ongoing medical assistance and long-term rehabilitation.

Severe injuries can require extensive medical interventions, including multiple surgeries or even organ transplants. The gravity of such injuries may result in lasting disabilities, impacting the child’s ability to attend school, work, or lead a normal lifestyle.

Therefore, when filing a personal injury lawsuit on behalf of a minor, parents need to consider wide-reaching potential expenses and compensation that account for the physical and emotional well-being of their child. These include:

  • Medical Expenses — Costs for immediate and ongoing medical treatment.
  • Rehabilitation Costs — Expenses for physical therapy and rehabilitation.
  • Future Medical Care — Anticipated costs for long-term medical needs.
  • Loss of Future Earning Capacity — If the injury affects the child’s future earning ability.
  • Pain and Suffering Compensation for physical pain and emotional distress.
  • Disability or Disfigurement — Costs related to any permanent disability or disfigurement.
  • Educational Needs — Expenses for special education or tutoring if the injury impacts learning.
  • Emotional and Psychological Counseling: Costs for therapy and mental health support.

Consulting with an experienced personal injury lawyer is paramount in these emotionally charged cases because they can advise parents about the best way forward and point out unforeseen circumstances.

The Role of a Personal Injury Lawyer 

In cases involving minors, it is crucial to seek legal representation due to the complexities and unique aspects of these cases. Personal injury attorneys are equipped to navigate these complexities and are well-versed in the relevant laws. 

They can ensure that the child’s rights are protected and that the compensation covers all current and future needs. Our experienced trial lawyers at Pullano & Siporin can handle the intricate legal procedures and advocate effectively for the best interests of minors in the state of Illinois. 

With more than 50 years of combined personal injury experience, we are committed to keeping our promises and delivering justice for those needing legal representation.

Contact Pullano & Siporin for a Personalized Consultation

Dealing with a child’s injury caused by someone else’s negligence is a deeply distressing experience for any parent. You may be confused and have numerous concerns about the long-term impact of the injury and the steps to take to secure the best possible recovery for your child. 

Let our team of experienced child injury attorneys help you navigate the complexities of your child’s legal claim. We can offer the necessary legal insight and guidance to make informed decisions and work towards obtaining the maximum compensation for your case.

 Contact us today for a free consultation, and let us help you alleviate some of the challenges during this difficult time.

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