What Should I Do if My Child is Injured in a Car Accident?

Personal injury law textbook

When driving with their children, most parents take every precaution to ensure that their child is safe, from securely fastening them into the car seat that is recommended for the child’s age, height, and weight, to teaching their teen driver about the dangers of texting and talking on the phone while driving. However, despite their best efforts, car accidents are an unfortunate reality, and they can cause devastating injuries to all the vehicle occupants, including children. If a child is injured in a car accident, the parents may wish to file a personal injury claim. There are some key differences between a car accident claim involving a child and a claim for an adult. An experienced Baltimore accident lawyer can explain the differences and secure the financial compensation the child deserves for his or her injuries.

How Effective are Seat Belts at Protecting My Child?

Unfortunately, car accidents are one of the leading causes of death in young children. In 2018, over 97,000 children 12 years old and younger were injured, and 636 were killed in car accidents. Out of the children who suffered fatal injuries, 33 percent were not securely restrained by a seat belt. Parents and caregivers have a responsibility to ensure that their children are safely secured in the appropriate car seat, and their older children fasten their seat belts every time they ride in the car. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), seat belt use among young children depends on the driver’s seat belt use. In fact, close to 40 percent of children who were in the car with an unbelted driver were also unrestrained.

The proper seat belt use is one of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of serious injuries and fatalities, regardless of the child’s age or size:

  • Car seats reduce the risk of injury in a car accident by up to 82 percent for children compared with seat belt use alone.
  • The proper use of booster seats reduces the risk of serious injuries by 45 percent for children between the ages of four and eight, compared with seat belt use alone.
  • Seat belt use reduces the risk of serious injuries and fatalities in older children and adults by almost 50 percent.

What are Some Examples of Injuries Children Suffer in Car Accidents?

Unfortunately, children are more likely to suffer one or more injuries in a car accident compared with adult passengers. The severity of the injuries will depend on a number of factors, including how fast the vehicle was traveling at the time of the accident, the point of impact, and whether the child was properly secured in the appropriate car seat. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the following are some of the most common types of injuries that children suffer in car accidents:

  • Head injuries: An NHTSA report found that children under the age of one had a higher incidence of head injuries compared with two other age groups. Contusions and lacerations were the most common type of head injuries. Children between the ages of one and seven were more likely to suffer skull base fractures. These injuries can cause memory loss and permanent learning disabilities.
  • Upper and lower extremity injuries: The most common upper extremity injuries in children are humerus, radius, and ulna fractures.
  • Thoracic trauma: These involve chest injuries resulting from blunt or penetrating trauma. Rib fractures and lung injuries are among the common types of thoracic injuries. These can be quite devastating for children because a child’s skeletal system is still developing, and a serious injury can have long-term consequences.

The following are additional injuries that children can suffer in a car accident:

  • Cuts and lacerations from broken glass and other sharp objects
  • Fractures to the hands, wrist, feet, and legs
  • Dental trauma
  • Permanent disabilities from spinal cord injuries or nerve damage
  • Psychological difficulties caused by head injuries, or the emotional and physical effects of the accident

How Do Children’s Accident Claims Differ from Those of Adults?

When filing an accident claim, parents must understand some of the key differences between a claim filed for a child versus that for an adult, and the impact it can have on the compensation amount.

  • Children under the age of 18 may not file a personal injury claim. Parents and guardians can file a claim on behalf of an injured child.
  • The statute of limitations for filing a claim is extended for minors. The child can file his or her own claim when he or she turns 18, or the statute extends two years after the injury was discovered. This allows the parent, or the child who has since turned 18, to file a claim for injuries that may have been discovered later.
  • The court has the power to approve or reject a settlement involving a child injury case, even if the parties agreed on a settlement. This protects the child if a parent or guardian attempts to misrepresent the child.
  • Personal injury cases involving children have different compensation amounts. Although a child will not be compensated for lost wages, he or she may receive financial compensation for pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of future income.

What Steps Should I Take if My Child was Injured in a Car Accident?

When a child is injured in a car accident, the top priority is to ensure that the child gets immediate medical treatment. Once the child is under the care of a skilled medical professional, the parents or guardian should contact an experienced accident lawyer as soon as possible for the following reasons:

  • Hiring a skilled accident lawyer allows parents to focus their attention on their child, rather than worrying about the legal issues associated with the case.
  • An accident lawyer will negotiate with insurance companies, who want to settle claims involving children as quickly as possible. They may try to take advantage of parents who are in an emotional state by offering a low settlement amount. An accident lawyer will reject modest settlement offers and ensure that the family receives the compensation they deserve.
  • Contacting an accident lawyer will ensure that the child receives a fair settlement. In addition, an accident lawyer is familiar with the statute of limitations, so the claim will be filed well before the deadline.
  • Accident lawyers understand the complexities of personal injury cases involving children. If the settlement amount exceeds $10,000, it must be approved by the court, and the funds must be held in a restricted bank account.

How can I Prevent My Child from Being Injured in a Car Accident?

The most important step a parent can take to ensure that their child is safe while riding in the car is to make sure that the child is properly buckled in his or her car seat, booster seat, or seat belt. That means that parents must understand which seat is appropriate for the child’s weight, age, and height. The following is a seat belt guide that parents can follow:

  • Rear-facing car seat: This should be used from birth to age two to four. Ideally, children should be secured in a rear-facing car seat in the back seat until they reach the upper weight and height limits that are recommended for the seat. The owner’s manual will provide this information.
  • Forward-facing car seat: This should be used after the child outgrows the rear-facing car seat, and until at least the age of five. They should continue using this car seat until they reach the upper height and weight limit recommended for the seat.
  • Booster seat: This seat should be used after the child has outgrown the forward-facing car seat, and until they reach a height of approximately four feet nine inches tall, and up to 12 years old. The seat belt fits properly when the lap belt lays across the upper thighs and the shoulder belt lays across the chest.
  • Seat belt: Once the child has outgrown the booster seat, he or she must be secured by a seat belt every time he or she rides in the car. Ideally, all children age 12 and under should be buckled up in the back seat.
  • Do not seat children in front of an airbag. If a child is sitting in the front seat, an airbag can cause serious, even fatal, injuries if it deploys. Parents should also avoid placing a rear-facing car seat in front of an airbag. The safest place for children to be seated is in the middle of the back seat.

Baltimore Accident Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Seek Justice for Children Injured in a Car Accident

If your child was seriously injured in a car accident, the experienced and compassionate Baltimore accident lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton understand how difficult it is for parents to see their child hurt. We will do everything in our power to secure the maximum financial compensation you and your child deserve. Our dedicated legal team will talk you through every step of the claims process and address all your questions and concerns. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online.

Our offices are conveniently located in BaltimoreColumbiaGlen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, where we represent victims throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel CountyCarroll CountyHarford CountyHoward CountyMontgomery CountyPrince George’s CountyQueen Anne’s CountyMaryland’s Western CountiesSouthern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of CatonsvilleEssexHalethorpeMiddle RiverRosedale, Gwynn OakBrooklandvilleDundalkPikesvilleParkvilleNottinghamWindsor MillLuthervilleTimoniumSparrows PointRidgewood, and Elkridge.