What Happens When a Child Suffers an Injury in an Accident or Animal Attack?
Children can be even more prone to injury during a motor vehicle accident, animal or dog attack or even while at play or while visiting a commercial store or amusement park. While many aspects of a child injury case are the same as adult personal injury, there are important differences when the victim is a child. What happens when a child suffers serious personal injury?
One of the first differences in cases where a child has been injured is the appointment of a “Guardian Ad Litem.” Another important aspect of child injury settlements and verdicts is how the financial award is handled, and the decisions a judge or the parties involved may structure funding. Recent changes to California law also affect our fees in these cases, and it is important to understand not only the fee structure but the experience and qualifications of the attorney who will represent the interests of your child.
What is a Guardian Ad Litem?
A “Guardian Ad Litem” is simply a person who is appointed by the Court or Judge to represent the interests of the child. Children do not have the legal standing required to make decisions, and the Guardian Ad Litem protects the child from deceptive or unrealistic settlement offers as well as advising on decisions regarding all legal aspects of their case. The Guardian Ad Litem is most often selected based upon our recommendation to the Court. I sit down with my clients (the child’s parents or legal guardians) and we discuss the qualifications of this individual and who would be best suited to this task. Usually, this is one of the child’s parents. The Guardian Ad Litem does not become a party to any lawsuit, and does not receive any part of a resulting claim. They are simply appointed to represent and look after the best interests of an injured child.
Blocked Accounts or Annuities
The injury of child can result in several different financial liabilities including all medical bills, future medical costs, nursing or day care expenses, lost future wages and the loss of “child services” such as the work a child may have done on the family farm or in a family business that now must be paid to someone else. Other financial recoveries can include compensation for the child’s pain and suffering, as well as potential “punitive” damages due to the malice associated with the cause or nature of the accident itself. It is not possible to recover for the “loss of society” or the impact of how the child’s parents and siblings will potentially miss out on events and activities in the injured child’s life.
The settlement or jury award will be placed into a “blocked account” or some form of insurance annuity. This means that the child’s parents will not be able to access the money for their own purposes. Expenses must be approved by the Court or some other trustee, and must be directly related to the care and treatment of the child as it relates to the injuries they have received from the accident, or modifications and services that are required in the wake of recovery.
Attorney’s Fees in Child Injury Cases
In California, attorney’s fees used to be capped by law at a low fixed percentage of the award or settlement. In 2010 the California legislature recognized that this cap might limit the quality and availability of the lawyers who would be willing to represent children in injury cases. The work and risks associated with this legal work are the same as in adult injury cases, and the old process meant that a child may not have access to the best and brightest attorneys. This is no longer the case, and my costs are simply based upon what is termed a “reasonable fee schedule” and must be approved by the court and I am paid based upon my work after settlement. There is no cost to your family up front or out of pocket.
Contact an Experienced Orange County Child Injury Attorney
My name is Rivers J. Morrell, III and after more than 40 years of serving the interests of injured children and the residents of Orange County and Riverside County I can tell you that these cases require extensive experience and expertise. I invite you to experience the reviews of my clients, my attorney peers, as well as the recognition of the legal industry. If your child has been injured due to the negligence of another person please call for a free consultation at (949) 305-1400 or contact my office to schedule an appointment in person. I will do everything possible to help you and your child to recover from what has happened, so that you can move forward with healing and moving forward with your lives.