Child Personal Injury Cases in Virginia

In personal injury lawsuits involving children and minors (under the age of 18), Virginia law views these plaintiffs as not mature enough to understand and look out for their own interest. The law provides extra protections to children that are not available to adult plaintiffs.

Under Virginia law, the statute of limitations for personal injury cases is two years, meaning that a lawsuit must be filed within two years after the injury-causing event. An exception is made in personal injury cases involving minor children. In Virginia, the statute of limitations for crimes committed against children begins its two years upon a minor’s eighteenth birthday, and runs until the minor’s twentieth birthday. In cases of child sexual abuse, the statute of limitations may begin when the injury due to sexual abuse “is first communicated to the victim by a licensed physician, psychologist, or clinical psychologist” (National Crime Victim Bar Association), and the lawsuit must be initiated within 20 years of that time.

A child cannot negotiate a claim, so a parent may negotiate on behalf of a chlld. If the parent is not deemed capable of representing a child’s interests, or if a parent caused injury to a child, the court will appoint a qualified “guardian ad litem” to act in the child’s best interests, whether the child suffered or caused the injury.

What about cases where a minor has caused the injury? Very young children, up to the age of seven years, are generally not considered liable for accidental injuries, because they are too young to understand, and are held incapable of being negligent. Parents or legal guardians can, however, be held liable for negligence in failing to control a child, according to alllaw.com. After the age of understanding, a child and the child’s parents can be held liable for intentional injuries he or she causes, for example, by throwing a rock or intentionally injuring another child.

If a minor is found to be legally responsible for causing an injury, the victim/plaintiff can often collect compensation, despite the fact that children don’t normally have much money of their own. If a minor can be held legally responsible for an injury, there are several ways for a person injured by the minor to collect compensation. The parents’ homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy may cover the conduct of a minor who lives in the home, so the injured person may be able to deal directly with the parent’s insurance company. In cases of motor vehicle crashes, the actions of minors are very often covered by the vehicle owner’s insurance.

Craig Follis has extensive experience in litigation, negotiating and settling suits, and providing legal opinions on liability and insurance coverage. You can reach him at (888) 703-0109 or via email at cfollis@lawyersva.com.

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