Filing a personal injury claim for a child’s injury can be incredibly stressful for a parent. You just want to go back to before your child was injured and avoid having to deal with the entire legal process. It is perfectly understandable to find yourself confused about how to file a claim and how compensation will be paid out. Because the claim is specifically being filed on behalf of your child, the money is technically theirs. However, Massachusetts has a very specific process for how compensation is paid out to children.
Damages for a Child’s Injury
As children cannot legally file a personal injury claim until they turn 18, Massachusetts’s laws allow parents or guardians to file the claim on their behalf. The goal of a personal injury claim is to help make the child whole again through monetary compensation, oftentimes in order to recover the cost of their medical treatment. Medical treatment could include an initial visit to an emergency room as well as long-term treatment like surgeries, physical therapy, assisted living equipment, adjustments to a home if the accident left them disabled, and psychiatrist visits for emotional trauma.
However, other costs can be included as well. Our state does recognize lost wages and lost future earnings in child injury cases, but only if the injury specifically affects their ability to work. For example, if your teenager had a part-time job as a barista but could not work due to a broken bone he sustained in a car accident, any wages he missed out on while recovering can be included in the claim. Alternatively, if your child suffered a spinal cord injury that left them confined to a wheelchair, she may find it difficult to follow certain careers. This loss can be included in the claim as lost future earnings and career opportunities.
Lastly, the case can include non-economic damages related to the personal losses your child has suffered due to the injury. Generally, this refers to pain and suffering, or the amount of pain your child feels on a day-to-day basis because of the accident, but it can also include mental anguish and loss of enjoyment of hobbies, activities, relationships, and life in general.
All of the above damages can be included in your child’s claim and, if the claim is successful, your child will receive compensation for their injuries. But how they receive compensation can vary.
Judicial Review of Child Injury Claims
Whether or not your claim goes to trial, it is possible that a judge will become involved in your claim. That is because, in the state of Massachusetts, any personal injury claim that exceeds $10,000, whether it was received through an out-of-court settlement or jury verdict, must be reviewed by a judge if the claim is filed for a minor. Generally, this will involve a formal hearing where the judge will review the settlement, decide if it is fair, and ensure that the parents understand that the money is for the child’s benefit only. While it definitely can be used to cover the cost of your child’s treatment, under Massachusetts’s laws, the money is legally theirs and the courts will clearly outline how they will receive it.
There are three methods a court can pay out a settlement offer or jury verdict:
Structured Settlement: Structured settlements involve period payments paid by the insurance company to the child. These payments are tax-free and are considered the most secure method for receiving a settlement, as it steadily provides funds for future medical expenses and needs that your child may have due to their injury.
Trust Account: The court may place the child’s compensation into a trust that they will be able to access once he or she is a legal adult.
Guardianship Account: In some cases, the court will provide the funds to the child’s parent or guardian so that they may cover medical expenses and other costs until the child is an adult.
There is no set rule for how the court will distribute a claim when a child is injured, but a structured settlement is one of the most common methods. Your best option for determining how your claim is process is to speak to an experienced attorney who can explain the entire legal process to you and your child.
If you or your child has been injured due to someone else’s negligence, whether it was a pool accident, vehicle collision, or slip and fall, do not hesitate to reach out to DiBella Law Offices, P.C. Our lead Burlington personal injury attorney can investigate your accident, determine negligence, collect evidence, calculate damages, and advocate for fair compensation from the at-fault insurance company. Throughout the entire process, our legal team will keep you up to date on the status of your claim and how compensation will be paid. To schedule a free consultation, call us at (617) 870-0907.