A Lawsuit No One Wants to File
The worst thing a parent can imagine is harm coming to their child—be that serious injury or even death. Indeed, even people without children cringe at the thought of a little one’s suffering.
Unfortunately, in the world we live in, the most vulnerable among us are not shielded from injury and accident. As such, the law has remedies for parents that they wish they never would have needed—financial compensation for the injury, disability, or death of their child.
Damages: A Primer
In any discussion of personal injury or wrongful death cases, it is necessary to address the two primary distinctions in American law regarding damages.
The first distinction is between punitive and compensatory damages. Punitive damages are intended to punish bad behavior by a defendant who is found liable for an injury or death and so deter that behavior in the future to protect others. Compensatory damages put a dollar amount on injuries and suffering in an attempt to make a one-to-one restoration for time, money, and physical abilities lost. Massachusetts only recognizes compensatory damages in most cases, so achieving a full and accurate valuation of a victim’s losses is very important.
The second distinction is between economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages come with a price tag; they may be hospital bills, home-healthcare charges, bills for wheelchairs or other adaptive devices, and more. Non-economic damages attempt to give a dollar value for pain and suffering, including loss of enjoyment of life, disfigurement, disability, and mental anguish. Non-economic damages are harder to valuate and harder to prove in a court.
Suing on Behalf of a Child
Children cannot sue on their own behalf until they reach the age of eighteen, but a parent may sue on behalf of the child so long as the suit and settlement are in the child’s interest. Additional protections are in place—namely, additional judicial review—in cases filed on behalf of minors that feature personal injury claims of more than $10, 000. This is to ensure protection of the settlement’s funds for the minor’s benefit and future use. Parents must petition a court to approve their child’s settlement.
Settlement Structures and Structured Settlements
Because additional safeguards are in place for child plaintiffs, it is unusual for settlements to be given as a lump sum.
Structured settlements, in which an insurance company pays on a schedule, are very common. They are designed to provide tax-free future income specifically for covering expected medical and other expenses caused by an injury.
A settlement may be put into a trust, managed by a fiduciary third-party, so that the funds will be safe and well-managed until the child plaintiff comes of age.
Though not as common as structured settlements or trusts, a guardianship account allows the court to provide funds to the child plaintiff’s parent or guardian for medical expenses until the child becomes an adult.
Difficult Times Call for Superior Representation
The legal process, even under the best circumstances, can be stressful, frightening, and confusing. When coping with the injury or death of a child, this stress is greatly magnified.
We understand that this is the worst time in your life, that you would rather be in any other situation—and we want to help you get through it. If your child has suffered a severe personal injury, please contact our office for a free case evaluation to learn your rights, your options, and the potential value of your case.