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Car accidents are one of the leading causes of death and serious injury for children in Georgia and around the country. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 60,000 children are injured in motor vehicle collisions yearly in the United States. If your child was hurt in a car crash caused wholly or in part by the negligence of another road user, you may pursue compensation by submitting an insurance claim or filing a lawsuit.
Nathan Fitzpatrick is a skilled Atlanta car attorney representing hundreds of motor vehicle accident victims. In this article, he covers the kind of injuries children suffer in vehicle collisions and the steps parents or legal guardians can take to hold motorists who cause accidents responsible for their negligent behavior. He will also answer some of the most common questions that parents ask after their children have been injured in traffic accidents.
The Basics of Car Accidents
Airbags, anti-lock brakes, and automatic safety features have made car wrecks much more survivable, but traffic collisions still kill or seriously injure tens of thousands of motor vehicle drivers and passengers every year. Georgia doesn't have a no-fault insurance law, meaning police officers who respond to car accident scenes allocate blame when they write their reports. This is important because damages awarded in a Georgia personal injury lawsuit are reduced if the plaintiff acted negligently.
Common Causes of Car Accidents
Almost all car crashes are caused by human error. When children are killed or injured in motor vehicle collisions, it is often because they were not properly restrained or one of the drivers involved was under the influence of alcohol or drugs. About four in 10 of the children killed in car crashes in 2020 were not buckled up, according to the CDC, and almost one in 4 of them died in a crash involving a drunk driver.
Importance of Seeking Legal Help After a Car Accident
It is prudent to seek the help of an experienced attorney following a serious car accident because negotiating with insurance companies is not easy. Insurance companies try to settle car accident claims for as little as possible, and they know that the people they deal with often struggle to make ends meet.
When an insurer is using delaying tactics to keep settlement costs low, it is a good idea to have an experienced professional on your side. This is especially true when accident injuries are serious, and there is a lot of money at stake.
Common Injuries Sustained by Children in Car Accidents
Children have more delicate bodies than adults, so they may suffer serious injuries in a car accident that their parents walk away from. Specialists are sometimes needed to treat a child’s injuries, which increases medical bills. Children may also suffer from psychological conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder following a serious accident.
Long-term Effects of Car Accident Injuries on Children
Car accident damages are higher when children suffer permanent injuries or have to endure months of treatment. Children injured in motor vehicle accidents may not be able to play sports or enjoy time with their friends, which can lead to depression and behavioral problems.
Emotional and Psychological Impact on Children
Children who are seriously injured in car wrecks often develop post-traumatic stress disorder or fall into depression. Doctor appointments that adults find inconvenient can be traumatic for children, and even getting into a motor vehicle can trigger painful memories for an injured child. When Greek researchers studied the cases of children who survived traumatic experiences, they discovered that almost a third of them developed cognitive, social, or behavioral problems.
Importance of Documenting and Seeking Immediate Medical Attention
If you or your child are involved in a serious car accident, you should seek medical attention right away, even if everything seems fine. Serious head and neck injuries do not always present symptoms immediately, and they can take far longer to heal when treatment is delayed. Not visiting an emergency room could also make seeking compensation more difficult because the insurance company involved could argue that your or your child’s injuries are not accident-related.
Factors Considered in Calculating Average Settlement for a Child in A Car Accident Claim
Insurance companies use a formula when they determine how much to offer people who have been injured in car wrecks. They try to offer accident victims as little as possible, so documents like medical bills should support claims for significant damages.
The Severity of Injuries
Parents and legal guardians are compensated more when their children suffer debilitating injuries in car crashes because they have higher medical costs and take more time off work to attend doctor and hospital appointments. Major injuries also cause more pain and suffering, and emotional distress.
Medical Expenses and Future Treatment Costs
Accident victims should be compensated for their doctor and hospital expenses when they suffer injuries due to the negligent actions of others, but things can get complicated when treatment is expected to continue for some time.
This is why insurance companies may want to wait until an accident victim has reached the point of maximum medical improvement before settling a car accident claim. This can be difficult to determine when a minor is injured, which is why negotiating a child's car accident settlement is often a long and frustrating process.
Pain and Suffering
Children have a lower tolerance for pain than adults, so they may receive more compensation for their suffering. Calculating the appropriate compensation for pain and suffering in a personal injury case involving a child is usually done by determining a per diem figure and then multiplying it by the number of days that pain was endured.
Even a minor car accident can leave a child traumatized, but proving emotional distress can sometimes be difficult. If you would like to receive a fair settlement for your emotionally distressed child, you should keep track of therapist appointments and ask teachers to report any unusual behavior. Insurance companies could find evidence like this difficult to refute because children are not usually capable of faking the symptoms of depression or PTSD.
Lost Earnings and Future Income Potential
Parents or legal guardians who have to take time off work to accompany their children to medical appointments can usually provide paystubs to show that they lost income, but calculating the future earnings potential of injured children is a complicated process.
An expert’s opinion is usually needed to determine the child’s expected educational attainment, and then a complex formula may be used to figure out how much the child will earn during their lifetime and how much they would have earned if they had not been injured.
Role of Insurance Companies in Car Accident Settlement Negotiations
Insurance companies are publicly traded companies, which means they have a duty to their shareholders to maximize profits and keep their costs to a minimum. This is why insurance adjusters negotiate fiercely when settlements are likely to reach five, six, or seven figures. Insurance companies rarely deny legitimate claims, but they work hard to settle them for as little as possible.
Importance of Legal Representation in Settlement Discussions
All of this can make arriving at a fair outcome difficult for parents or legal guardians, which is why it is always a good idea to go into settlement discussions with a skilled negotiator in your corner. If you decide to go it alone, any agreement you reach will be reviewed by a judge to make sure that you are not being taken advantage of.
This happens because motor vehicle accident settlements of more than $25,000 must be approved by a court in Georgia when an injured child is involved. If an experienced car accident attorney negotiates on your behalf, obtaining court approval is unlikely to delay things for very long.
Case Studies: Average Settlement for Child Car Accident Victims
The average settlement for a child in a car accident in Georgia can range from a few thousand dollars to several million, depending on the severity of the injuries and other factors related to the accident. It's important to note that the information below is purely hypothetical, and actual settlement amounts will vary depending on numerous factors, including jurisdiction, the details of the accident, insurance coverage, and legal representation.
Case 1: Child with Minor Injuries
- A child sustains minor injuries, such as bruises and scratches, in a car accident.
- The child is taken to the hospital for an examination; no major medical intervention is needed.
- The family incurs some medical bills and has to replace a damaged car seat.
Average Settlement Amount:
This type of case might result in a settlement in the range of $1,000 to $10,000.
The lower range would cover basic medical expenses, and the higher range might take into account additional factors like emotional distress or inconvenience.
Case 2: Child with Moderate Injuries
- The child sustains more serious injuries, such as a broken arm or mild concussion.
- Several visits to healthcare providers are necessary, and there may be ongoing therapy required.
- The family also incurs costs for transportation, medication, and perhaps even missed work.
Average Settlement Amount:
- The settlement for a child in a car accident claim might range from $10,000 to $50,000 on average.
- This would cover medical expenses, ongoing care, lost wages for the parents, and potentially some compensation for pain and suffering.
Case 3: Child with Severe Injuries
- The child sustains life-altering injuries in a car accident, such as traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, or severe burns.
- Long-term medical care is required, possibly including surgery, rehabilitation, and ongoing therapy.
- The family may also need to modify their home or vehicle, and they may face ongoing emotional trauma.
Average Settlement Amount: $/day for the rest of
- The settlement in such a case might range from $100,000 to several million dollars.
- This wide range reflects the significant variation in medical costs, lost future earning potential, necessary modifications to living situations, and non-economic damages like pain and suffering.
Again, please note that these numbers are highly speculative and are based on general trends in personal injury law. Every case is unique, and various factors can significantly impact the settlement for a child in a car accident
Consulting with a qualified personal injury lawyer who is familiar with local laws and specific details of the case would be essential to understand what compensation might be appropriate.
FAQs: About Settlements for a Child's Injuries in a Car Accident
How do you calculate the settlement amount for a claim?
Motor vehicle accident settlements are calculated by combining the economic and noneconomic damages suffered by the victims. Economic damages include medical costs, repair bills, and lost income. Noneconomic damages are paid to cover pain and suffering, emotional distress, and diminished quality of life.
How do you respond to a low settlement offer?
Insurance companies usually make low settlement offers during the early stages of negotiations. They do this to set a low starting point for future discussions. An experienced personal injury attorney could respond to a low opening offer by making a high counteroffer.
What is the average settlement for a child in a motor vehicle accident?
There is no simple answer to this question because all car crashes are different. Accidents that cause minor injuries are usually settled quickly and inexpensively, but settlement for a child with injuries is sometimes measured in the millions when car crashes leave children permanently disabled.
Can parents seek compensation for their child's injuries?
Parents can recover damages in a personal injury or wrongful death case when their children are injured or killed in a motor vehicle accident, but they may not receive all of the money the jury awards. This is because Georgia law requires any damages awarded for a child’s pain and suffering or emotional distress to be held in trust until the child reaches 18 years of age.
How long does it take to reach a settlement?
Car accident claims can be settled quickly when the sums involved are minor or the first offers made by insurance companies are accepted. If injuries are serious and negotiations are contentious, reaching a settlement could take days or weeks.
Protect Your Child's Rights with a Free Consultation from a Car Accident Lawyer at The Fitzpatrick Firm
If you or your child suffered injuries in a motor vehicle accident, you deserve to receive all of the compensation you are entitled to. The Fitzpatrick Law Firm has recovered millions of dollars for traffic accident victims, and we offer our clients a free consultation to discuss their legal options. If you would like to have a skilled and experienced personal injury attorney on your side when you negotiate with an insurance company, you can call us at (678) 607-5550 or use our form below to schedule an appointment.