Recovering Damages for an Injured Child After an Indiana Car Crash

Posted on behalf of Pfeifer Morgan & Stesiak

on March 27, 2020

. Updated on November 2, 2022


putting child in car seatParents spend a considerable amount of time driving their children to and from school, extracurricular activities and other places, so it is not surprising that there are a lot of car accidents involving minor children.

What many may not know, however, is that there are unique challenges involved when parents attempt to recover damages that could include medical expenses and lost wages. This is why we recommend hiring an experienced South Bend car accident lawyer to protect your best interests throughout the legal process.

At Pfeifer, Morgan & Stesiak, we are well-versed in the complexity of a car accident claim involving injured minor children, and we are prepared to help. We offer a free, no-obligation consultation to review the circumstances of your accident and discuss your potential legal options.  If you hire our services, there are no upfront costs for us to represent you, and we collect no money for our fees unless we are successful in getting compensation for you.

Common Injuries Children Suffer as Passengers

Because children are physical smaller, they may suffer more serious injuries in a car crash, even a minor one, than an adult would in a similar situation. Some common injuries that children suffer in car accidents include:

  • Head injuries – Children may suffer traumatic brain injuries, skull base fractures, concussions, contusions or lacerations because of the sudden force caused by the collision, or because they hit something nearby, such as the side door.
  • Thoracic injuries – Infants are particularly susceptible to suffering a rib fracture or lung injury because of the car seat restraint.
  • Bone fractures – Because their bodies are still growing, children’s bones may not be as strong as an adults, making them more susceptible to broken fingers, ankles, wrists, hands or other fractures.
  • Broken glass injuries – Children may suffer lacerations to their skin or eyes.
  • Dental injuries – Children may suffer one or broken teeth or damage to their gums.
  • Amputations – Children may suffer the loss of a limb that can forever change their life.
  • Psychological damages – Children may be severely traumatized following a car accident, even if they did not suffer any severe physical injuries. This type of emotional damage could necessitate ongoing therapy.

Statute of Limitations

The statute of limitations, or filing deadline, for bringing a car accident claim in Indiana is generally two years from the date of the car crash or discovery of the injury. However, with car accidents involving injured minor children, the law becomes more complicated.

Personal injury claims filed by the injured child

Since minor children are not considered legally competent to file a claim on their own behalf following an injury involving a car accident, the statute of limitations is tolled (paused) until the child reaches his or her 18th birthday. At that time, the two-year time clock begins ticking again. If the child does not file for damages before his or her 20th birthday, the claim will be barred by the court.

Derivative Claims

Alternatively, the parents of a minor child may also choose to pursue a derivative claim to recover their own damages resulting from their child’s injuries, such as:

  • Lost wages
  • Reimbursement of medical expenses for your child
  • Loss of services
  • Property damage

In this situation, parents must adhere to Indiana’s filing deadline of two-years from the date of the accident or injury. If parents miss this date, any further attempt to file a claim for losses would be dismissed by the court.

If a parent misses the deadline for filing a derivative claim, the child may still file a claim for these damages, since the medical costs and other damages belong to the child as much as to the parent, as long as the claim is filed before his or her 20th birthday.

Indiana’s Comparative Fault

Indiana follows a comparative fault system, so under the law, if you were found to be more than 50 percent liable for an accident, damages cannot be recovered for the injuries your child sustained.

Additionally, under Indiana law, the potential for a minor child sharing any liability for a car crash is defined as follows:

  • Under seven years of age – The law presumes that minors under the age of seven are not capable of sharing any fault for an accident.
  • Age seven to 14 years of age – Indiana considers there may be a rebuttable presumption that minor children at this age are not at-fault for an accident.
  • Age 14 years and up – From age 14 years, children are held to the same standard of care as an adult.

Receiving Settlements For a Minor

Claims involving minors may involve complications. One such complication is that Ind. Code § 29-3-9-7 requires that any settlements involving minors must be approved by an appropriate court. If the settlement is $10,000 or more, a guardian must be appointed to receive the settlement and properly distribute it.

A child’s legal guardian is responsible for overseeing and protecting the funds for the child. For settlements worth less than this amount, the proceeds can be given directly to the parents, but the parents must use the funds to support and benefit of the minor in accordance with Ind. Code 29-3-3-1. If an insurance company wants to settle the claim quickly, these rules may slow down the process.

Contact Us for a Free Consultation

If your child was injured in a car accident caused by another person’s reckless or negligent behavior, he or she may be eligible to receive compensation for damages suffered.

Call our firm today to schedule your FREE online consultation: (844) 678-1800

Pfeifer, Morgan & Stesiak

Serious Attorneys for Serious Cases