Sweet Child of Mine…Personal Injuries to Children

For parents, the safety and welfare of our children is at the forefront of our mind, constantly. For some, it is hard to even think about their child being injured; I know it is VERY hard for me. Even the smallest of injuries, causing the littlest of pain, to a child, is still an emotional trauma to the parent. We never want to see our babies hurt. Unfortunately, there will almost definitely be a time, in the life of a child, that they will be injured, and that injury could be the result of an accident, due to the negligence of another. This article discusses some specific differences between injury claims for children and adults and also discusses some common “dangerous objects” that can cause  personal injury accidents, involving children.

1. Special Considerations regarding Personal Injury Claims for Children

a. Damages

When a child sustains injuries, due to the fault of another, there is a potential for a personal injury claim, on behalf of the child. Depending on the age of the child, damages to be considered are quite similar to damages considered in a personal injury claim for an adult, but there are also some differences. If the child is not employed, at the time of the personal injury accident, lost wages would not be part of the damages calculation. Loss of support would also, typically, not be an element of the damages for a minor, unless the minor had a job and used funds from that job to support others.  

b. Statute of Limitations

Since the parent is responsible for the medical expenses of the child, the statute of limitations on the medical expenses portion of the claim is two years from the date of the accident (in Texas and Oklahoma, for other states, make sure to consult your personal injury attorney for the applicable statute of limitations). As to the child’s portion of the claim (basically everything, besides the medical expenses), the statute of limitations runs two years after the child’s 18th birthday (again, in Texas and Oklahoma, for other states, make sure to consult your personal injury attorney for the applicable statute of limitations).

c. Friendly Suit and Minor Prove Up Hearing

Another, very different issue, regarding the resolution of the personal injury claim of a child, as opposed to an adult, is the potential requirement of a friendly lawsuit, minor prove up hearing, and requirement for the minor’s funds to be deposited in an interest bearing account and held until the minor turns 18 years old. The Court will also appoint an attorney for the minor, called the Attorney (Guardian) Ad Litem, to represent the best interests of the child. 

Following are some common “dangerous items” that are involved in accidents where children sustain personal injuries.  One side note, to be aware of, in situations where a child was the person that caused the personal injury of another child, it needs to be determined if a parent or adult could be held responsible for the actions of the child that caused the injury. Questions that help answer potential adult responsibility include (1) did the responsible adult fail to supervise the child that caused the injury; (2) did the responsible adult allow the injuring child to use a dangerous object; and/or (3) was the responsible adult aware of any potentially violent tendencies of the injuring child?

2. Guns

According to Nationwidechildrens.org (https://www.nationwidechildrens.org/research/areas-of-research/center-for-injury-research-and-policy/injury-topics/general/gun-safety):

  • Nearly      1,300 children younger than 18 years of age die from shootings every year.
  • Most      of the victims of unintentional shootings are boys. They are usually shot by a friend or      relative, especially a brother.
  • Nearly      40% of all unintentional shooting deaths among children 11-14 years of age      occur in the home of a friend.

From the statistics above, it is obvious that a gun can be very dangerous for a child. If gun owners practice proper gun storage, most of these injuries can be avoided. When trying to determine responsibility for personal injuries of a child, caused from a shooting, who was the shooter is a very important question. It would also be important to determine if the shooting was on accident or intentional; this is an important question because insurance policies usual only cover accidents. Another question, when trying to determine if there is applicable insurance, is the relation of the injured child to the shooter; some policies will not cover incidents between immediate family members, like father and son or sister and sister.

3. ATV

According to the February 2020 Annual Report of ATV Deaths and Injuries (https://www.cpsc.gov/s3fs-public/2018AnnualReportofATVRelatedDeathsandInjuries.pdf?VGaf1cuZ_D0SGxct2eRpZUwcgME4LKDy):

· From 1982 through 2018, CPSC staff received reports of 3,353 ATV-related fatalities of children younger than 16 years of age. This represents 21 percent of the total number of reported ATV-related fatalities (15,744). 

· In 2016, the most recent year where reporting is considered complete, of the reported 591 ATV-related fatalities, 65 (11 percent) were children younger than 16 years of age. Of those 65 children, 29 (45 percent) were under age 12.

· Although the proportion fluctuates from year to year, children under 12 generally represent almost half of all under-age-16 child fatalities reported throughout the period from 1982 through 2018. Of the 3,353 reported ATV-related fatalities of children younger than 16 years of age (from 1982 through 2018), 1,465 (44 percent) were younger than 12 years of age.

ATV’s are so much fun, but also so dangerous, even deadly. When we allow our children, or guests, to ride such vehicles, we must provide and require safety gear; require proper riding equipment and shoes; and any necessary training to operate the vehicle. We must also provide a safe environment for riding the ATV. States sometimes have special laws for use of ATVs, so you will want to make sure you know the laws for the state where you are operating or allowing children to operate the ATV.

4. Power Tools

As reported by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) over 400,000 emergency room visits and 200 fatalities, annually, are due to the result of accidents involving power tools. Many of these injuries are to children. Hopefully, you are seeing a pattern here, but many of the injuries to children can be prevented with appropriate storage of these dangerous devices, as well as appropriate supervision. If you, as an adult, are going to have power tools, in your home, you need to be safe when storing them and also help children understand how dangerous these tools can be and how important it is for them to leave the power tools alone.

5. Bicycles

In 2017, Texas was ranked third highest for bicycle fatalities. It is estimated that around 60 people die, per year, in bicycle accidents. In 2018, 3 percent of child motor vehicle crash deaths involved bicycles. Bicycles are also a great source of exercise and allow for a wonderful, healthy source of family time. Many of the children fatalities could have been prevented with property safety gear, specifically, helmets. Parents, with children on bicycles, must be hyper-vigilant with teaching their children bicycle safety and maintaining awareness of surrounding motorist and other dangerous conditions, when on bicycle rides.

As parents, not only is it our responsibility to make sure our children are safe; it is also our responsibility to know if our children have access to dangerous items or if they have shown dangerous tendencies. If you know the Guns N Roses song, Sweet Child of Mine, you know, that it gives a beautiful description of a parent’s view of their child. We need to protect that beautiful view of our own children and all children with whom we have the pleasure to share our lives.

Stay Safe!