September 25, 2023
personal injury

In a typical personal injury case, when an adult is injured by another party’s negligent or reckless acts, they can negotiate or sue them for compensation. These cases typically include auto collisions, slip and fall injuries, and pedestrian or boating accidents.

However, if the injured party is your minor child, the claims process becomes more complex. Minors cannot legally represent themselves in Alabama, meaning you may have to file on their behalf.

An Alabama personal injury lawyer from The Vance Law Firm Injury Lawyers can help you navigate a minor-involved claim’s special rules and procedures. We will help you understand your rights as the injured party’s parents and protect your family’s best interests. 

Legal Considerations in Personal Injury Claims Involving a Minor

Individuals are not considered legal adults in Alabama until age 19 (Alabama Code 26-1-1). If a personal injury case involves a victim aged 18 or under, the law considers that victim a minor.

According to the Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure, minors may not represent themselves or sue another party directly. However, that does not mean they can’t pursue compensation from the at-fault party. State law permits a minor’s legal representatives to sue the at-fault party on their behalf.

How Legal Guardianship Works in Alabama

In most personal injury cases involving a minor, the victim’s parents are the primary legal guardians. State law (6-5-390) provides equal representation rights to both parents if they are married and living together.

The situation is slightly more complex if the minor’s parents are unmarried, living separately, or a court has determined legal custody. Generally, whichever parent the child lives with can represent them if injured, provided this parent has legal custody.

If the minor’s parents are unable or unwilling to file a claim for their injured child, a third-party legal guardian can initiate the claims process instead. Two types of legal guardians can represent an injured child’s interests: parent-designated and court-appointed.

  • Parent-designated legal guardians. The parents of a child can designate another person to act as their legal guardian. They can be other family members, such as an uncle, an aunt, a grandparent, an adult child, a close friend, or any other qualified individual.
  • Court-appointed legal guardians. Depending on the case, an Alabama court may designate a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL). The role of a GAL is to provide an unbiased assessment of the situation and advocate for the injured minor’s well-being from an independent perspective. GALs are typically Alabama personal injury lawyers specializing in this type of case.

Best Practices After an Accident Involving a Minor

If your child was injured in an accident, you can work with an attorney to file a claim on their behalf. Consider their needs and long-term well-being when seeking compensation from the at-fault party. Take the following steps to strengthen your child’s personal injury claim:

  • Collect your child’s medical records. All medical documentation relevant to the accident can help ensure your child receives maximum compensation. Examples include hospital records, X-rays, imaging scans, test results, and treatment plans. You can also include rehabilitation logs, medication prescriptions, or behavioral health records.
  • Get a copy of the police record. Contact your local law enforcement agency and request a copy of the official record describing the accident. Its role is to document all involved parties and establish liability. For example, if your child was harmed in a vehicle collision, you can obtain a copy of the accident report to use for their claim.
  • Obtain witness statements. If anyone else witnessed your child get injured, get their contact information and ask if they are available for your attorney to record their statements. They can be crucial in corroborating your child’s version of the events and strengthening your case.
  • Consider your child’s long-term needs. Your child’s attorney should consider their long-term needs when negotiating a settlement. The compensation should cover medical expenses, rehabilitation, therapy, educational support, and the impact on their general quality of life.
  • Understand potential structures for a minor settlement. Court approval is typically required for proposed settlements over $5,000 to uphold the minor’s best interests. To safeguard their financial well-being, the court will establish a trust or structured settlement, which is held for the child until they turn 19. However, you may request approval from a judge to use the funds to pay for expenses like education or transportation.

In Alabama, the statute of limitations for personal injury cases is usually two years from the day of the accident (6-2-38). However, if the plaintiff was a minor at the time of the accident, the statute of limitations starts from the day they turn 19.

Safeguard Your Child’s Rights

At The Vance Law Firm Injury Lawyers, we understand better than anyone the pain and anguish of knowing a reckless or negligent individual injured your child. Our team of experienced and compassionate Alabama personal injury lawyers can help you navigate the complexities of the claims process.

Contact us today for a complimentary case review.

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