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Sadly, car accidents involving children are not uncommon, and they can have life-altering repercussions. When a child is injured in a car accident, the legal considerations can be a bit more involved than in the case of adults. Specific questions arise about who is liable or how child safety legislation might factor into the claim are all important. A Bryan, TX car wreck lawyer can help you understand more in reference to your specific situation.

Texas Car Seat and Seat Belt Laws

Texas has strict laws that outline required safety restraints for children based on age, height, and weight, and understanding these laws is crucial to any case in which a child is injured in a car accident. These laws are first and foremost about ensuring your child’s safety, but they can also become relevant in any personal injury cases related to car accidents. The liable party’s insurance company will take a careful look at whether a child was properly restrained and protected in order to keep their own payouts to a minimum.

In Texas, children under the age of 8 must be secured in a child passenger safety seat system unless they are taller than 4 feet 9 inches. Ideally, infants and toddlers should remain rear-facing in a car seat as long as possible, based on the manufacturer’s weight and height recommendations.

Once children have surpassed the size restrictions for a car seat, a seat belt can be used. However, it’s imperative for the seat belt to fit correctly. If the shoulder belt does not sit across the middle of the child’s chest and shoulder, or the lap belt doesn’t rest across their hips, a booster seat may be necessary until they grow tall enough for a normal seat belt to fit properly.

Liability in Car Accidents Involving Children

The standard rules for determining fault in car accidents apply, even when children are involved, so establishing liability depends first on demonstrating negligence. The person whose reckless or careless conduct caused the accident, and consequently the child’s injuries, can be held financially responsible, and this could be one of several people involved:

The Driver of Your Vehicle

If your driver operated the vehicle in a negligent manner that caused the accident, they are a potential at-fault party.

The Driver of Another Vehicle

When another driver’s careless or reckless behavior causes the collision, they become the obvious focus for liability.

Other Potentially Liable Parties

While at-fault drivers are most commonly the target in car accident claims, other parties can sometimes bear liability. This might include the manufacturer of a defective car seat that fails to protect a child or government agencies responsible for maintaining roads who have not kept up with them.

Compensation for Child Injuries

If your child was injured due to someone else’s negligence, they may be entitled to compensation for their damages. Compensation should cover hospital bills, doctor’s appointments, any ongoing therapy, medications, and future medical treatment the child may need due to accident-related injuries. Children can experience physical and emotional distress following accidents, and they deserve compensation for their endured pain and emotional turmoil as much as adult, so non-economic damages are also something they may be able to claim.

If the injuries leave your child with lasting disabilities, the settlement should address future care, loss of potential earnings, and other associated hardships. And in the tragic event of a child’s death due to the accident, parents or guardians may have a viable wrongful death claim against the responsible party. Conversely, if a child loses a parent in an accident caused by negligence, they may be eligible to bring a wrongful death claim, either immediately through a guardian or parent or later when they come of age.

Special Considerations for Minors

Texas law includes special provisions for cases involving injured children, since they cannot bring a lawsuit directly as a child. These factors should be carefully considered when you pursue a claim on behalf of a minor, and you should speak with a Bryan, TX car wreck lawyer as soon as possible if you’re unsure what applies in your case.

Statute of Limitations

Normally, Texas has a two-year statute of limitations for personal injury claims. However, this timeframe doesn’t start counting down for a child until they reach the age of 18. This allows ample time for the full impact of their injuries to be recognized and to seek appropriate compensation.

The “Next Friend”

Since children lack the legal capacity to sue independently, a “next friend” (usually a parent, but potentially any adult) can represent their interests in the case. If no one steps into the role, the child will still have the option to bring a case on their own once they turn 18, and they have until their 20th birthday to do so.

Settlement Approval

When a minor’s injury claim results in a settlement, the court requires a hearing to ensure the settlement is fair to the child. The court appoints an attorney called an “ad litem” to represent the child’s interests independently, and the ad litem’s role is to advise the judge on whether the settlement is in the minor’s best interest.

A Minor Settlement Hearing formalizes this process. It’s a hearing where the judge reviews the proposed settlement, hears input from the ad litem, and approves any decisions related to the child and their compensation. This hearing is designed to protect the minor’s interests and ensure the settlement and distribution of funds are managed equitably.

How a Bryan, TX Car Wreck Lawyer Can Help

Car accidents injuring children often involve extensive medical treatment, long-term repercussions, and significant emotional trauma. A seasoned personal injury attorney can guide you through the process and assist you in several crucial areas. For example, they will investigate the accident to identify all liable parties, and since this may require extensive research and consultation with experts to establish the full scope of potential accountability, it’s something that most parents would rather not have to deal with while also helping an injured child recover.

Your lawyer will also work diligently to quantify all economic and intangible losses your child has suffered. They may turn to medical experts or financial professionals to project the potential future costs of care associated with the child’s injuries. Then, when it comes to negotiations, an experienced lawyer will go to battle on your child’s behalf. Insurance companies are businesses focused on minimizing their payouts, and they have both the resources and experience to do this well. An attorney skilled in negotiation will work to secure a fair settlement that meets your child’s current and prospective needs and will level the playing field for you in these talks.

In some cases, negotiations may not yield a reasonable settlement. When this happens, a good attorney will be willing to go to court and able to prepare a strong lawsuit to fight for justice through the litigation process.

Child passenger injuries in car accidents are complex matters, both emotionally and legally, and parents of an injured child have a lot on their plates. If this describes you, it’s essential to speak with an experienced Texas personal injury attorney right away. Contact Brian Gutierrez, Personal Injury Trial Lawyer now and get the aggressive legal representation your child deserves to secure their future.

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