How Does A Child
Bring An Injury Lawsuit in Georgia?
When kids suffer personal injury or wrongful death in Georgia the law gives the children and their parents a number of remedies. However, children have a unique place in society due to any number of factors, such as: their ability to understand the legal process, their parents’ responsibility for medical bills until adulthood, their limited income ability, and even the way they recover from injuries. Accordingly, Georgia law treats personal injury to children differently—and that’s exactly as it should be.
First, when a child is injured, the kid and his or her parents both have separate legal claims. In fact, while the parents pursue the child’s claims on their behalf, the kid’s and parents’ claims are actually separate and independent from one another.
The child—no matter whether they are 2 or 12—have their own claim for physical and mental pain and suffering that often follows a serious personal injury. Why? The child’s pain and anguish is their own in the sense that no one else legally “owns” this item of damage, although parents go through their own mental anguish whenever their child is injured. Next, the child “owns” their claim for medical expenses after they turn 18 years old. Why? First, 18 years of age is widely recognized as the age of majority in the United States and in the State of Georgia. The law has to pick a date where the child becomes responsible for him or herself (at least in theory). Almost all legal jurisdictions have selected 18 years of age as that benchmark. But how can my 4 year old ‘know’ what medical expenses she might incur after 18 years of age? Good question. A good child injury lawyer meets with the child’s treating physicians and surgeons and together as a team creates a future treatment plan for the child. The doctors set forth what medical care the child is likely to need and the lawyer translates that plan into a form acceptable under Georgia law.
How does a child bring claims for his or her personal injuries and related medical bills?
The child’s claims are brought through a legal guardian or “next friend,” usually a parent. While the parent brings the lawsuit for the child, the case and any financial recovery belong to the child.
In Georgia, parents own the claim for the injured child’s medical expenses until he or she reaches the age of majority, or 18. Why? The law presumes that parents must pay for their children’s medical expenses until the child is 18 years of age. Accordingly, the parents are entitled to be reimbursed for those expenses. The parents also have a claim for loss of the child’s “services” although this claim must be carefully considered before it is asserted. Many people, and jurors, can be quite skeptical of a parent who seeks a financial recovery for loss of a child’s services.
What is the Statute of Limitations for Child Injury Cases in Georgia?
The child’s claims for their pain and suffering, as well as their claim for medical bills after 18 years of age, is “tolled” until they are 18. Tolled is a fancy legal word for “delayed.” In plain English, this means that a child must file their claims before their 20th birthday. Under only exceptional circumstances should a child ever wait that long to file a personal injury lawsuit. Our personal injury firm aggressively pursues child injury cases and, in almost every case, we advise clients to timely investigate and, if necessary, file the claims. The parents’ claim for medical expenses expires two years from the date of the injury. While there appears to be some confusion under Georgia law, our firm believes that the safest practice is pursue parents’ claims for medical expenses (those incurred up until the child’s 18th birthday) before the second anniversary of the injury.
Do children’s medical malpractice cases have a different statute of limitations in Georgia?
Yes. The child only has until their 7th birthday to file a medical malpractice claim. In other words, the statute of limitations is not tolled or delayed until their 18th birthday, as with most other types of personal injury claims. Of course, the parents’ claim for medical expenses must be filed within two years of the injury, just as with other types of personal injury cases involving kids.
Who brings a lawsuit for the wrongful death of a child in Georgia?
The claim belongs to the child’s parents, jointly. If the kid’s parents are divorced, both parents still ‘own’ the claim for the child’s wrongful death; however, a Judge with jurisdiction over the case is empowered to allocate any financial recovery. In other words, if one parent was extremely uninvolved with the child, the Judge may reduce, perhaps greatly, a particular parent’s share of the proceeds.
For many years, our injury law firm has represented injured children and their families all over the Atlanta area and throughout Georgia. We have handled cases involving:
• Car accidents and children
• Trucking and commercial vehicle accident and children
• Drunk driving
• Daycare negligence cases
• Dog attacks
• Dangerous properties and amusement parks
• Store, mall, and carnival injuries
• ATV-related injuries