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What Should I Do If My Child Was Hurt in a Miami Car Accident?

If your child is injured in a Miami car accident, you should (i) attend to your child’s medical and safety needs and (ii) prepare to file a personal injury claim on behalf of your child. Don’t try this on your own-–you will need the assistance of an experienced personal injury lawyer. 

What’s Unique About Child Injury Victims

Child personal injury victims are unique in several ways:

  • Children are typically more fragile than adults, both physically and emotionally.
  • Children are more prone to certain types of accidents, such as pedestrian accidents and dog bites
  • A child cannot file a personal injury lawsuit on their own. 
  • A young enough child cannot talk enough to describe their symptoms, rendering medical treatment more difficult.
  • You face negligence liability for not properly restraining the child in your car before the accident.
  • Under Florida law, younger children cannot bear liability for misconduct because Florida does not consider them old enough to bear responsibility for their own actions. A six-year-old, for example, will not be considered liable even if they cause an accident by grabbing the steering wheel.  

Typically, the child’s parent will file a lawsuit on behalf of the child.

Steps To Take Immediately After the Accident

Take the following steps in the immediate aftermath of the accident, as circumstances may require.

  • Remove any dangers from the environment. That might mean pulling your car into the side of the road after a car accident, for example, or restraining a vicious dog. 
  • Perform first aid on the child if you can. Start early because time matters.
  • Call 911 to have an ambulance dispatched to the scene of the accident. Both you and your child should seek immediate medical attention even if you don’t believe you were seriously hurt. Some injuries, such as traumatic brain injuries, take hours or days to manifest symptoms. 
  • Exchange contact details and insurance information with the other driver. Florida requires you to do this, and it also requires you to remain at the scene of the accident until the police or ambulance arrives.
  • Watch your child closely once they get home. Be alert for any late-breaking symptoms that could signal a more serious injury. Your child will require special attention if they are too young to talk.
  • Start a file where you collect all documentation about the crash, such as medical bills and repair costs. You may also include a journal where you provide daily notes concerning your child’s physical and emotional condition.
  • Suspend your child’s social media accounts until the case is over. Don’t mention the accident on your own account because insurance companies can use any statements you make against you.

Don’t forget to replace the child’s car seat before you put them into the car again. This is critical because the accident might have caused hidden damage to the car seat, rendering it less effective in the event of another accident. 

File a Personal Injury Claim

Although Florida allows you to file a personal injury claim within four years of the accident (perhaps extendable to seven years for children if the injured party is a child), you should act as quickly as you can to secure competent legal assistance. 

Schedule a Free Initial Consultation With a Personal Injury Lawyer

The first step in hiring a personal injury lawyer is to schedule a free initial consultation. During this meeting, the lawyer will decide whether your case is worth taking. They might even give you a ballpark estimate of how much your claim is worth. The lawyer will also advise you of your options. 

Don’t worry about money; almost any personal injury lawyer will take their fee from your eventual settlement. You pay nothing unless you win.

Obtain the Official Crash Record

In Florida, a “crash record” is a police report typically filled out by the responding police officer. You can’t use it in court as evidence. However, it will be useful in settlement negotiations, and your lawyer will need it.

Seek Settlement

Most car accident lawsuits resolve through settlement. Just as you act on behalf of your child when pursuing your claim, you should allow your lawyer to act on your behalf while pursuing a private settlement. 

Allow your lawyer to investigate, gather evidence, draft and send a demand letter to the responsible party (usually an insurance company), negotiate your claim for you, and hopefully settle your claim out of court. Have your lawyer draft a settlement agreement—don’t try to draft it yourself.

Settlement Funds

If you settle for $15,000 or less, you usually do not need the court’s approval, and you can manage these funds on behalf of the child. You do need the court’s approval if you settle after filing a lawsuit. 

If the settlement amount is over $15,000, the court must approve any settlement you reach, even if you never file a lawsuit. The court might set up formal guardianship and order the child’s funds to be deposited into a restricted bank account or in an annuity. You might have to obtain court approval to withdraw money. In this case, all withdrawals must be “reasonable and necessary.”

File a Lawsuit

If you can’t settle out of court, your lawyer might have to file a lawsuit in your name but on behalf of the child. As the child’s parent, the court will probably appoint you as the child’s guardian for the purpose of maintaining a lawsuit on behalf of the child. The court might reject you and appoint another guardian, however, if:

  • You are partially or fully responsible for the accident that injured the child. If the accident was your fault, the court would consider it a conflict of interest for you to file a lawsuit on behalf of your child.
  • You have a history of domestic violence, child abuse, or any other offense that might render you an unfit parent.

Speak to the lawyer if you have any questions about this issue.  

The Worst-Case Scenario: File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

If your child should die from their injuries, the personal representative of the child’s estate (appointed by a judge, but typically a parent) can file a wrongful death claim on behalf of the child’s estate and surviving family members. The statute of limitations deadline is two years after the date of death.

For the death of a child, compensation might include:

  • The loss of the child’s companionship;
  • Survivors’ emotional pain and suffering; and
  • Reimbursement of any medical and funeral expenses that have already been paid.

Wrongful death compensation can be immense.

Discuss the Case With a Miami Car Accident Lawyer

You should definitely hire a Miami car accident attorney at Shaked Law Personal Injury Lawyers to seek a personal injury settlement or judgment on behalf of your child. Remember, however, that any lawyer you hire will represent your child, not you.

The sooner you act, the better your child’s chances of receiving fair compensation.

Call (305) 937-0191. to schedule a free consultation today.