Overview and Statistics
Childhood injuries affect millions of lives every year, cause massive emotional trauma for everyone involved, and can lead to a lifetime of pain or even death. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that over 12,000 youth ages 0-19 die every year from unintentional injury, while more than 9.2 million are treated for nonfatal injuries in emergency rooms. Unintentional injury is the number one cause of death in children and causes more fatalities than illness, disease, and assault combined.
The rates of death or injury caused by different injuries vary from age group to age group, as children become exposed to different risk factors. For example, drowning is the number one cause of death in children ages 1-4, whereas motor vehicle accidents cause the most deaths in children aged 4-19. Burn injury rates for children below 4 are much higher, and males sustained injuries at a rate of almost twice as often as females.
Case Studies in Personal Injury Involving Children
A child has as much of a right to compensation for pain and suffering, medical care, future lost income, and disability as an adult would. Often, parents will file lawsuits for their children's injuries rather than wait for the child to turn 18, when they can file for themselves. The court may place the award in an account to be accessed when the child comes of age. In addition, children are not held to the same standard when the court evaluates their negligence. Since their brains are still developing, they are only held to a standard of behavior that a child of their age could be reasonably expected to meet.
There are some types of injuries in children that more commonly necessitate the help of a personal injury attorney. Following are some examples of recent cases involving common injuries that have been successfully litigated, and the parties that may be liable for a child's injury.
Motor Vehicle Death
Motor vehicle injury and death can occur in a variety of traumatic ways. In one case, a 16-year-old boy, Mason Zisette, sustained a severe brain injury while attending his friend's Sweet 16 birthday party. Zisette hit his head on a pedestrian bridge while standing on the top floor of a rented party bus traveling down the freeway. He never woke up, and his family was awarded $26 million in their wrongful death suit in December of 2016. The jury found the bus company, Starline Tours, to be 70% responsible, the family hosting the party to be 25% responsible for negligent supervision, and Zisette himself 5% responsible.
Approximately 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs in the United States annually. Children aged 4-9 have the highest occurrence of dog bite injuries of any age group under 19. In late 2016, a woman from Santa Cruz, CA received $57,500 as compensation for the injuries her five-year-old child sustained when he was attacked by a dog on Rio del Mar state beach. The dog grabbed the child by the head while his 6-year-old brother watched, puncturing his skull and necessitating 12 staples. $50,000 was awarded to the boy for his injuries while $7,500 was awarded to his brother for emotional trauma.
In September of 2016, a second-grade student in Arkansas was awarded $750,000 as compensation for injuries he sustained while playing on the playground at his elementary school. In 2014, the child was playing on a “snake pole,” a curving metal pole shaped like a snake that children can climb, when he fell and suffered a compound fracture in his arm. The fracture required surgery and the insertion of metal pins into his arm. The lawsuit successfully claimed that the playground equipment manufacturer was liable for the injuries.
Drowning or Suffocation
On average, two children a day die from drowning, and for every child drowning fatality, there are five more who receive emergency care for injuries sustained from prolonged submersion. In 2014, 12-year-old Abdullahi Charif died a few days after trauma sustained during gym at his school. According to testimonies by students, he was allowed to play and roughhouse in the deep end even though the gym teacher knew that Charif could not swim. He was later found floating in the water at the end of class. His family was awarded $3 million in a settlement against the school district.
In addition to criminal charges associated with child abuse, children and their parents may choose to file personal injury claims for emotional trauma and/or health issues. In Minneapolis, two boys were awarded a total of $2.1 million for the emotional stress they suffered from repetitive sexual abuse. The abuser worked in the television industry, and the boys met him while they were auditioning for movies and commercials produced in the area. The man became close to the boys' family, preventing them from telling their parents about the repeated abuse.
While defective products can be dangerous for anyone, children are less capable of imagining and foreseeing risks and therefore more likely to get seriously injured when interacting with a dangerous product. At the end of 2016, Ikea furniture reached a settlement of $50 million with the families of three children who were killed when chests or dressers fell on them. The lawsuit claimed that the furniture was designed in a way to make them unstable and prone to tipping, and the incident spurred a massive recall of 29 million Ikea dressers and chests.
Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations for personal injury claims involving children in the state of Colorado is different than for claims involving those over 18. Although for most types of personal injury claims the statue of limitations is relatively short (1-3 years), if the injury or accident occurs before the time the victim is 18, the statute of limitations is extended by the length of time the victim has until they are 18. For example, if the normal statute of limitations for an injury claim is two years, but the victim is 12 years old, they will have eight years to file a claim for the injury.
Personal Injury Representation for Children
Although parents work tirelessly to protect their children from injury, nothing can keep a child 100% safe from the negligence of third parties. An attorney experienced in fighting for compensation for victims under the age of 18 can greatly increase the chance for a positive outcome as they work to maximize your potential award. At the Law Firm of Jeremy Rosenthal, we know how devastating childhood injuries can be and we will explore every possible avenue for getting you the compensation you deserve. Call us today at 303.825.2223 for a free consultation on your case or contact us online.