Understanding Personal Injury Claims for Minors & Children

Every parent’s worse fear is something bad happening to their children. The unfortunate reality is that parents can take all the right precautions to keep their children safe, but they can’t always prevent the negligent or dangerous actions of other people.

In Mississippi, when an adult is injured because of another person’s wrongful acts, the injured is able to pursue a personal injury lawsuit and seek compensation for their medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.

While the same general concept applies when children are injured, personal injury cases are generally more complex when they involve injury victims under the age of 18. Below, we break down some of the key concepts when it comes to personal injury claims for minors.

What are some common causes of child injuries?

Children get hurt all the time, but when negligence plays a role, they may be entitled to compensation to pay for their medical expenses, your lost wages related to having to stay home and take care of them, and your child’s pain and suffering.

Because children are still growing, a serious injury can have a significant impact on their lives and lead to even more negative ramifications, such as scarring, permanent disability, disfigurement, or behavioral problems. Some of the most common causes of child injuries include:

  • Car crashes
  • Bicycle accidents
  • Pedestrian accidents
  • Slip and falls
  • Playground accidents
  • Dog bites
  • Amusement park accidents
  • Fireworks
  • Accidents at daycares or schools

As a parent, can I sue on behalf of my child?

Children who have been injured are typically too young to know what a reasonable settlement is or what the legal process even entails. In Mississippi, the parents or guardians who are responsible for the care and maintenance of a minor child can file a personal injury lawsuit on behalf of that child.

While many other states distinguish individuals who are 18 years or older as legal adults, the state of Mississippi is unique in that the “age of majority” is 21 years old. According to Mississippi Code 1-3-27, this means that anyone under 21 is classified as a minor. However, individuals who are 18 years of age or older are able to legally settle personal injury claims on their own.

What happens to a minor’s settlement funds?

Parents and guardians are allowed to accept settlements on their child’s behalf. However, Mississippi state law also requires that settlements involving injured minors be approved by the chancery courts, which have jurisdiction over equity and family law matters. This is to ensure that the parent or guardian is accepting a settlement agreement that is in the best interest of the child.

When the settlement funds are approved, courts will typically require child settlements to go into restricted guardianship accounts to protect the funds and prevent:

  1. The minor child from wasting it before they are old enough to make better decisions on how to use it; or
  2. The parents or guardians from spending it on things that do not benefit the child

Restricted guardianship accounts are required if the settlement is over $25,000, yet many judges order the funds to be placed in one if the funds exceed $10,000. These accounts can typically only be accessed by petitioning the court with a very specific request or once the child has turned 21 years old.

What if my child’s own actions contributed to their injury?

In personal injury cases involving minors, children are often not held to the same standard of care that adults are held to because they are still developing and may not be mature enough to make the best choices.

However, the age of the child does matter when determining where fault lies. For instance, you may not expect a five-year-old minor to understand right from wrong, but you would probably expect a 16-year-old minor to make safe choices. Courts will ultimately decide if a minor played a role in their own injury by evaluating how a child of the same age would have acted in similar circumstances.

Additionally, while a minor may not be held responsible for their injuries, the concept of fault can come down to whether they had proper supervision at the time of the accident, whether it be from another parent or a school.

Has your child been injured in Mississippi?

You do everything in your power to protect your children, and it can be absolutely devastating when they suffer injuries due to another person’s actions. At Chatham Gilder Howell Pittman, our Mississippi injury attorneys are here to ensure that your child and entire family are properly compensated for the trauma you have experienced. We will work hard to help get your lives back on track so you can focus on moving forward.

We’re ready to hear your story. Contact our firm at (662) 222-0597 to speak with our legal team for free today.

About the Author
Jefferson D. Gilder is a Partner at Chatham Gilder Howell Pittman and was admitted to the Mississippi and Tennessee Bars in 1990. Mr. Gilder is admitted to practice in all courts in Mississippi and Tennessee including Federal Court, the Fifth and Sixth Circuit Courts of Appeal, and the United States Supreme Court. Mr. Gilder's areas of practice include personal injury, criminal, medical malpractice, civil rights, and product liability. Mr. Gilder spent his first ten years as an attorney practicing with his father, Robert G. Gilder, at Gilder Law Firm in Southaven, Mississippi before forming Gilder, Howell & Assoc., P.A. with Jamie W. Howell, Jr. in June of 2000. This firm although as another legal entity has now combined their resources and experience with Chatham – Pittman, to form Chatham Gilder Howell Pittman. If you have any questions about this article, you can reach Jefferson through our contact page.