With children, accidents happen all the time. But what do you do when your child has been injured as a result of another's carelessness? The law allows for special protections when a child has been injured. This is because, under Washington State law, a child under the age of eighteen (18) is considered to be "legally incapacitated" and cannot make legally binding decisions for themselves. This prevents a minor child from being able to pursue a claim for personal injuries against an at-fault party on their own.
In Washington, a parent or legal guardian can pursue a claim for personal injuries on behalf of a minor child. To ensure that any resolution of the claim, whether through settlement, is sufficient and that the proceeds are used appropriately for the benefit of the child, a judge must approve all minor settlements. See SPR 98.16W.
Additionally, to further protect the rights of minor children who have been injured, the statute of limitations has been extended for child personal injury claims. The personal injury statute of limitations for a minor child is typically three (3) years past their eighteenth (18) birthday - or their twenty-first (21) birthday. However, there are many exceptions to this rule. Thus it is best to always consult a knowledgable personal injury attorney when a minor child has been injured to ensure no important deadlines are missed.
Some of the most common types of injuries to minor children resulting in personal injury claims include:
One way to establish a valid claim for an injury caused to a child is to show that another acted negligently. To prove negligence, it must be established that:
For example, all motorists have a duty requiring them to safely operate their vehicle at all times. If a motorist fails to use reasonable care in the operation of their vehicle, then they have breached this duty. When a child is injured as a result of that breach of duty, then it can be established that they caused the victim's injuries. When the injured child has damages, either economic damages such as medical bills, or non-economic, such as pain & suffering, then the wrongdoer can be found negligent and required to compensate the child for the damages he or she sustained.
Although claims based on negligence are the most common type of claims for injuries to children, your child may also have a claim for injuries if they were injured as a result of an attractive nuisance.
Washington's premises liability law applies when someone has been injured on another's property. Typically, the law provides that a property owner or possessor is not responsible for injuries caused to someone who has trespassed on the property unless the property owner acted willfully or wantonly. However, the law provides special protections for minor children by recognizing that a property owner who has not taken reasonable protections to prevent injury to a minor child due to an attractive nuisance on the property may be liable for such injuries.
What constitutes an attractive nuisance depends on that specific situation. Generally, any feature of the property that can be reasonably expected to attract children and constitutes a danger to them is considered an attractive nuisance. Common types of attractive nuisances include:
According to the CDC, in 2019, 608 children passengers age 12 and younger died in motor vehicle crashes, and more than 91,000 were injured.
Every year, an average of 67,124 child pedestrians are injured. 704 of those child pedestrians are killed. 36% of the deaths of children under 16 occurred between 3:00 and 7:00 PM as it grows darker and children are harder to see.
In 2020, 102 children under 19 were killed in bicycle related incidents. An additional 80,862 children suffered non-fatal injuries. Further, bicycle deaths accounted for 2% of all fatal motor vehicle collisions.
Each year between 2017-2019, there were an average of 389 pool- or spa-related, fatal drownings reported per year involving children younger than 15 years of age in Washington.
Pool- or spa-related, hospital department-treated, nonfatal drowning injuries involving children younger than 15 years of age spiked 17 percent in 2021 with 6,800 injuries reported.
Research conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics showed that trampoline-related fractures accounted for 3.59% of pediatric fractures in 2008. By 2017, trampoline injuries caused 6.16% of all broken bones in children.
A settlement guardian ad litem ("SGAL") is appointed by the court whenever a minor child recovers compensation for personal injuries. The SGAL represents the best interests of the child and will carefully review all documentation regarding the child's injuries, discuss the child's injuries, treatment, and recovery with the parents and/or other legal guardians, and make a recommendation to the judge regarding whether the settlement (or verdict) should be approved by the court.
Once the court approves the settlement (or verdict) for the minor child, the court will issue an order describing what must be done with the child's portion of the proceeds. Typically, the child's proceeds will need to be placed into an interest-bearing trust or blocked account until the minor reaches the age of majority (18 years old). Only in very limited circumstances will the minor be allowed to access the funds prior to reaching (18) eighteen years old with the approval of the court.
For more information regarding settlement guardian ad litems, see SPR 98.16W.
There is a time limit to bring legal action for personal injury claims in Washington State. In most cases, the personal injury statute of limitations in Washington three years from the date of the injury. However, in most cases involving a personal injury claim of a minor child, the statute of limitations is tolled until three years after the minor's eighteenth birthday - or the child's twenty-first birthday. The statute of limitations may differ depending on the specific facts and type of the case.
If an injured child fails to either settle their case or file a lawsuit against the correct defendant before the statute of limitations lapses, they will be barred from receiving compensation for their injuries. This is why it is important to consult with an experienced child injury lawyer as soon as possible to ensure you do not miss any important deadlines that will affect your child's case or prevent them from recovering.
Economic damages compensate the injured victim for actual monetary loss. Examples include:
Non-economic damages are subjective, non-monetary losses. Examples include:
Other types of damages injured victims may be entitled to include:
The information on this website is for informational purposes only. This website contains general information on legal issues but is not intended as legal advice. The information on this website may not contain a current representation of the law and may not apply to your specific facts or situation. You should retain an attorney to obtain advice about any legal issue. The information and use of this website do not create an attorney-client relationship.