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Has your child been injured?

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: 

  • Car Crashes
  • Pedestrian Injuries
  • Bicycle Injuries
  • Premises Liability (including attractive nuisance claims such as swimming pool and trampoline injuries)
  • Dog Bite Injuries
  • School or Daycare Injuries
  • Sport Related Injuries

Negligence vs. Attractive Nuisance


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:

  • The defendant owed a duty to the victim; 
  • The defendant breached the duty owed to the victim; 
  • The defendant's actions caused the victim's injuries; and 
  • The victim suffered damages as a result of the defendant's actions.

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.

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: 

  • Swimming Pools
  • Trampolines
  • Playground/Swing-set Equipment (such as jungle gyms, swings, skate ramps, and treehouses)
  • Construction Equipment
  • Abandoned Vehicles 
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608 Children were Killed in Car Crashes in 2019

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. 

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67,124 Child Pedestrians are Injured Annually

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. 

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102 Bicycle Related Deaths of Children Occurred in 2020

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. 

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389 Child Fatalities Involving Pools/Spas Annually

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.

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6,800 Non-Fatal Pool/Spa Related Injuries In 2021

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.

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6.16% of all Bone Fractures in Children Caused by Trampolines

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.

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What is a settlement guardian ad litem?

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.

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What is The Statute of Limitations?

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. 

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What Damages Are Available?

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Economic Damages

Economic damages compensate the injured victim for actual monetary loss. Examples include:

  • Medical Expenses (including cost of medical treatment and/or equipment)
  • Prescriptions
  • Lost Wages/Lost Opportunity
  • Domestic Service Expenses
  • Funeral & Burial Expenses
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Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages are subjective, non-monetary losses. Examples include:

  • Pain & Suffering
  • Inconvenience
  • Emotional Distress
  • Loss of Enjoyment of Life
  • Loss of Society & Companionship
  • Loss of Consortium
  • Pre-Death Terror & Fright
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Other Damages

Other types of damages injured victims may be entitled to include:

  • Damage to Personal Property
  • Lost Enrollment Expenses (such as tuition or sport fees)
  • Lost Opportunity to Participate in Extracurricular Activities