What are Your Family’s Rights if Your Child Is Injured Riding in Someone Else’s Car?
guest post by Jordan S. Levine
You know that your child is as safe as he or she can be in the backseat of your car. You drive defensively.You observe the rules of the road. And you take care to ensure that you have secured his or her car seat appropriately. But, at some point, your child will need to ride with someone else. While you can choose who your child rides with and take as many other precautions as possible, like installing your child’s car seat in their car yourself, there are some risks you simply cannot control.
What are your legal rights if your child was injured while riding in someone else’s car? While this likely is not the first question to come to mind when you find out that your child has been involved in an accident, it is an important one for you, your child, and the rest of your family. Young children are particularly susceptible to traumatic injuries in the event of a collision. These injuries can affect children and their families for months, years, or even decades to come.
3 Key Considerations for Taking Legal Action After an Auto Accident Injures Your Child
1. Filing a Personal Injury Claim for Driver Negligence
Most auto accidents are the result of driver negligence. From speeding to following too closely. From eating or drinking to talking on the phone. All types of driving mistakes have the potential to cause serious accidents.
When a driver’s mistake causes an accident, this is known in legal terms as “negligence”. When a driver’s negligence results in an injury, the accident victim is entitled to “just compensation”. This can cover any and all financial and non-financial costs incurred. While most individuals and families focus on making sure they can pay their outstanding medical bills, just compensation for an auto accident can also include:
- Coverage for future medical expenses
- Reimbursement for loss of earning capacity due to physical or mental disability
- Compensation for pain, suffering, and emotional trauma
- Damages for permanent scarring and disfigurement
- Compensation for loss of companionship, support, services, and enjoyment of life
2. Filing a Product Liability Claim for a Vehicle or Car Seat Defect
In some cases, it’s not a negligent driver that is to blame for an accident, but rather a defective product. Unfortunately, product defects are far more prevalent than any of us would like to believe. Defective vehicle components (such as brakes, tires, and seat belts) and car seats can be extremely dangerous for obvious reasons; and, as a result, product designers, manufacturers and sellers are held to a higher standard.
Unlike negligence that applies in cases involving driver error, product defect claims are subject to the law of “strict liability”. Under the law of strict liability, proof of negligence is not required in order to secure just compensation. It is also not necessary for you to have purchased the defective product in order to file a claim. So, if your child was injured due to a defect in someone else’s vehicle or car seat, you can still pursue a financial recovery.
3. Auto Insurance Coverage for Accident-Related Injuries
If your child was injured as a result of driver negligence, your family’s financial recovery will most likely come from the at-fault driver’s auto insurance company. Except in the limited number of states with “no-fault” insurance laws (which limit the circumstances in which accident victims and their families can seek compensation outside of Personal Injury Protection (PIP)), the general rule is that auto insurance carriers are fully liable for victims’ injuries up to the at-fault driver’s policy limit.
But, this begs the question: Which driver was at fault? Was the person transporting your child at fault in the accident? Or, was another driver to blame? Could they both share responsibility for the collision? Answering these questions requires a thorough investigation. Conducting an investigation is a crucial early step in seeking just compensation for accident-related injuries.
In some cases, parents will have another difficult question to answer: What are my options if the at-fault driver was uninsured or underinsured? Unfortunately, despite legal requirements to carry auto insurance, many drivers do not have coverage, and the mandatory coverage levels are typically far less than the amount that will be required to provide full compensation for a traumatic childhood injury.
Due to these concerns, it is a good idea for all parents to carry uninsured/underinsured (UIM) auto insurance coverage. As its name suggests, UIM insurance provides coverage in situations where full compensation is not available through the at-fault driver’s insurance policy. Before accepting any money from any of the insurance companies, it is critical to determine both how much coverage is available and how much you need to cover your family’s expenses and provide for your child’s needs.
Steps to Take After Your Child is Injured in a Vehicle Collision
So, what do you need to do to protect your family’s rights if your child has been injured while riding in someone else’s vehicle? Some of the most-important steps include:
- Seek Prompt Medical Attention – After any type of accident, it is important to make sure your child sees a doctor as soon as possible. Provide your child’s doctor with as many details as you can about the crash. Try to ensure your child receives a comprehensive examination.
- Take Notes – Hopefully, the individual who was transporting your child did everything he or she was supposed to at the scene of the accident. Talk to him or her to gather as much information as possible. Take notes so you do not have to try to remember the details while you focus on caring for your child’s needs.
- Speak with an Attorney – Due to the complex issues involved and the importance of maximizing your family’s financial recovery, you should speak with an attorney as soon as possible. Personal injury and product defect attorneys handle cases on a contingency-fee basis. You should not have to pay anything out of pocket to engage experienced legal representation.
Jordan S. Levine is an experienced personal injury lawyer and the founder of Levine Law in Denver, CO. He has been handling injury cases for more than 20 years. He is prepared to help those who need it the most: the injured and their families.
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