Some of the most challenging cases any North Carolina personal injury attorney will ever handle are those involving injured children. The sad truth is that car accidents, dog bites, child care negligence, and other serious incidents can have life altering consequences for a young child. They can leave a child disabled and unable to enjoy life in the way they did before the incident. This can have a tremendous emotional impact on not just the child but also his or her family. Our attorneys have experience fighting for injured kids and their parents against insurance companies that refuse to treat them fairly. If you would like to discuss your case with an experienced attorney, visit our contact page or call us at (919) 526-0450. You can also view some of our results in cases involving injuries to children at our case results page.
Some of the issues that come up in North Carolina child injury cases, include:
Parental Claim v. Claim of Minor
When a minor is injured, there will typically be two separate legal claims belong to two separate claimants. The first claim belongs to the parent, and usually regards medical expenses incurred for the child’s treatment. The second claim is the minor’s. The types of damages recoverable by the minor will include any future medical expense beyond the age of 18, compensation for physical pain and mental suffering, and compensation for any permanent injury, permanent scarring, and/or loss of use of part of the body.
Appointment of Guardian ad Litem and Motions for Approval of Minor Settlement
While some child injury negligence claims can be settled prior to the filing of a lawsuit, the insurance company will typically want “court approval” for any significant settlement. In order to obtain “court approval,” the victim’s family has to file a lawsuit. This is know as a “friendly suit”. Although it’s referred to as “friendly,” the process is still generally the same as though a settlement had not been reached. A complaint and summons must be filed with the Superior Court Clerk of Court.
Notably, in North Carolina, a minor can only file a lawsuit through a “Guardian ad Litem”. In many cases, the Guardian is a parent, but sometimes the courts recommend an attorney. This could be the case when, for example, there is limited insurance coverage such that the parent’s medical claim will compete with the child’s claim or when the claim involves very serious to catastrophic injuries. Either way, a petition will have to be filed seeking appointment of the Guardian.
After the court appoints a Guardian and reaches a settlement, a judge will file a Motion for Approval of Minor Settlement and set a hearing. A judge will hear the details of the case, including the terms of the settlement, and determine whether acceptance of the settlement is in the best interest of the child. If the Judge approves the settlement, that will conclude the case. If he or she does not approve the settlement, attorneys will have to continue litigating.
If a lawsuit on behalf of a minor results in a settlement, there are two common payout methods. The first option is to deposit the funds into an account with the Clerk of Court in the county where the case is pending. Typically, the funds are inaccessible until the child reaches the age of 18. This is usually acceptable if the settlement is for a small amount or the child is close to age 18.
However, in cases with a substantial settlement or the child is young, a structured settlement may be preferable. In a structured settlement, the funds go to an annuity plan that pays the child certain amounts at certain times. Using a structured settlement usually results in the funds earning more interest than they would with the Clerk of Court. Additionally, if the in a properly constructed structured settlement, the interest is not taxable.
Free Consultation and Contingency Fee
The Raleigh law firm of Maginnis Law regularly represents injured children in negligence cases throughout the Courtrooms of North Carolina. We offer free consultations to parents of children hurt because of the negligence of others. If we take your case, we will do so a contingency basis. This means that you or your child owe no attorneys’ fees unless we recover a monetary settlement or verdict. Our firm handles cases involving injuries to children from the mountains to the coast, including cases from Asheville to Wilmington.