Some of the most heart-wrenching personal injury cases are those involving children.
And litigating personal injury cases involving minors should be done with particular care. In Florida, these cases require a Florida personal injury attorney who has knowledge of the specific state procedural requirements that apply to minors.
Because they have not yet reached the “age of majority,” (18), in Florida, minors are not allowed to bring a case to recover for their personal injuries caused by another’s negligence.
Thus, the question often arises, who can file a lawsuit for an injured minor?
Who Can File a Lawsuit for an Injured Minor?
There can be 2 potential answers to this question.
The first, and most common, is that the minor’s legal guardian may file a lawsuit on the child’s behalf. Most often the child’s legal guardian is one or both parents. (But a legal guardian can also be appointed by the court if necessary.)
The other, answer is that, depending on the facts, the child himself/herself may bring the case if he reaches the age of maturity within the statute of limitations.
The statute of limitations for personal injury actions (not medical malpractice) is 4 years of the date of injury. The statute of limitations is the time period within which a lawsuit must be filed. It is technically the same for both minor and adults: any personal injury action must be brought within 4 years of the date of the injury.
However, there are some exceptions to the statute of limitations and minority is one of them. In the case of a minor, the statute of limitations can be “tolled” (extended or kept from running) for up to seven years. But even if the statute is tolled, the action must be brought within 7 years from the date of injury, or the court will dismiss the case.
What Damages are Recoverable?
In personal injury actions, there are three types of damages that are generally recoverable. They are:
- Economic damages
- Non-economic damages, and
- Punitive damages
Because punitive damages are imposed for the purpose of punishing a defendant unless the personal injury claim involves conduct that was intentional and/ or constitutes gross negligence, such as conduct that demonstrates a depraved indifference to human life, punitive damages are rarely recoverable.
The most common damages recovered in a personal injury action are economic damages and non-economic damages.
Economic damages are money damages. They are things you can put a dollar amount on, such as:
- Medical bills
- Hospital bills
- Property damage repair costs
- Loss of earnings (if you cannot work because of your injuries)
Non-economic damages, on the other hand, are damages that arise from the personal injury which you cannot put a precise dollar amount on. Non-economic damages can be hard to prove and are not always recoverable in all states. Non-economic damages can be (are not limited to) things like:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional damage
- Loss of enjoyment of life
Damages are an important part of any personal injury case.
Florida’s Additional Requirements to Protect Minors
Importantly, knowing who can file a lawsuit on behalf of a minor isn’t the whole story when it comes to personal injury actions and minors.
As an experienced Florida personal injury attorney like John Fagan will tell you, Florida law has additional requirements when it comes to personal injury settlements and children.
Designed to protect minors from unscrupulous persons, the law allows parents or guardians of a minor to settle the child’s personal injury claims without court oversight if:
- A claim or lawsuit has not been filed, and
- The settlement amount is $15,000 or less.
If these two conditions are met, the parents/guardian(s) of the minor may settle the child’s case outside of court without the need for court oversight. The parents/guardians can, if they want, petition the court for approval of the settlement, and if they do, they will be released from all liability when the court approves the settlement.
However, any settlements that occur:
- After a claim or lawsuit is filed, or
- When the gross amount of settlement is more than $15,000,00,
By requiring court oversight in these instances, Florida law is designed to protect the interests of the child.
It is also important to note that any settlement monies obtained in settlement of a minor’s personal injury claim do not belong to the parent or guardian. This means that settlement monies cannot be used by the parent or guardian for his or her own uses but must be used in the child’s best interests.
Any personal injury case involving a minor can best be handled by consulting with an experienced Florida personal injury lawyer.
Personal Injury Attorneys in North Central Florida.
John Fagan and his legal team are dedicated to helping those who are injured or disabled. Contact us here or simply call our firm at: 777-JOHN. We serve clients throughout Florida. Our main office is in Orange Park, but we have consulting offices in Palatka, Middleburg, Keystone, Starke, Gainesville, and Ocala.