Fort Lauderdale Child Injury Attorney
Children spend most of their time enjoying life and having fun. Despite parents’ safety precautions and warnings, children’s daily activities often leave them vulnerable to accidents and injuries. When a child sustains a serious injury, it may transform the child’s joyful life into a daily struggle to recover. While not every accident causes serious harm, far too many children suffer serious injuries that have long-term consequences. As parents, you understand that bumps, bruises, and dings are a natural part of growing up. When your child sustains life-altering injuries in a car accident or on a playground, it’s not natural at all. As child injury attorneys, we believe that all parents need to understand the risks each child faces by simply living life and trying to have fun. Below, we provide answers to some of the questions that we hear most frequently from our child injury clients, so you will know what to expect if an accident occurs.
About Our Fort Lauderdale Child Injury Lawyers
At The Levin Law Firm, we’ve worked with many parents after a negligent person or organization injured their child. We’ve always understood that parents must focus on their child’s recovery rather than the legal proceedings surrounding their injury case. While parents provide emotional support to their injured child, our attorneys concentrate on critical legal issues. As dedicated child injury lawyers, we understand that negligent parties don’t always admit when they’re at fault. That’s why we take immediate action as soon as we accept a client’s case.
Our team works hard to investigate accident circumstances before the evidence slips away. In past cases, we’ve identified the responsible parties and placed them on notice. We have intervened with insurance companies and responsible parties on our clients’ behalf. Our legal team has taken prudent steps to protect our clients’ and their children’s legal rights. We always work to produce the best legal outcomes possible.
Why Are Children More Vulnerable to Injury?
Children are more at risk than adults of sustaining certain injuries because children don’t always have the cognitive and reasoning skills necessary to avoid injury-causing accidents. Children are more vulnerable to severe injuries because they are physically frailer than adults. For example, when a dog bites a child, the teeth have a higher potential to cause injury through skin, muscles, and bones.
Florida law defines children as vulnerable. The law even grants immunity from civil liability for rescuing a vulnerable person. When someone forcefully enters another person’s vehicle to rescue a vulnerable person from perceived harm, the vehicle owner has no civil recourse to pursue damages.
How Long Do I Have to File a Claim for My Child’s Injury?
Florida law sets the timeframe for filing a lawsuit or settling a liability claim. A child’s statute of limitations varies.
- In most situations, the statute of limitations for a case involving a minor child expires in seven (7) years or when the child reaches adulthood (age18).
- If the court appoints a guardian ad litem to handle a child’s interests, the guardian has the authority to settle before the 7-year timeframe. The court must approve a guardian’s settlement agreement.
What Is a Guardian Ad Litem?
Courts have the discretion to appoint a guardian ad litem to handle an injured child’s legal interests involved in an injury claim.
This occurs most often due to two circumstances:
- A child sustains injuries valued in excess of $15,000.
- A conflict of interests exists between the parents and the child.
The court-appointed guardian ad litem handles all issues related to the child’s injury, including settlement negotiations. A guardian ad litem has the authority to settle without the parent’s input; however, the judge must approve any settlement.
Do I Have to File a Lawsuit to Recover Damages for My Child’s Injuries?
Some insurance companies attempt to resolve child injury claims without forcing the parents to file a lawsuit. It makes sense to settle a case rather than maintain an open claim for up to seven years. If your child sustained injuries in an auto accident, you should consult with an attorney to determine the at-fault parties and develop a strategy for pursuing compensation. No matter what type of injuries your child sustains, when you negotiate the settlement yourself without legal representation, it may prove challenging to know for sure if the at-fault party is offering you a fair settlement.
Will My Child Face Liability for the Accident?
Courts consider children under the age of six as incapable of negligence. The Florida Supreme Court established this standard in Swindell v. Hellkamp. When considering an older child’s level of negligence, juries receive instructions that advise them to consider the child’s actions compared to “a reasonably careful child of the same age, mental capacity, intelligence, training, and experience.”
What Types of Incidents Cause Childhood Injuries?
As a parent, experience teaches you that your child will encounter challenging situations. By entering school, playing with friends, and participating in organized sports, children gradually move beyond the immediate protection of their parents. As your child grows, many different events and circumstances have the potential to cause injury. You can’t protect your children from every danger, but you can teach them about safety and monitor them when possible. Sadly, accidents happen anyway, and children often sustain injuries when their parents least expect it.
When your obstetrician injures your child during birth, it’s a heartbreaking beginning for a brand-new life. Like all humans, doctors make mistakes. When doctors cause problems during the birth process, the consequences sometimes last forever.
Both mother and child become victims when an obstetrician doesn’t perform according to medical standards, including:
- Failure to notice a developing problem over months of prenatal care;
- Delayed vaginal delivery;
- Waiting too long to perform a C-section;
- Making a surgical mistake during surgery;
- Inadequately monitoring both the mother’s and the child’s heartbeat;
- Unresolved anesthesia complications; and
- Negligent forceps and vacuum extraction deliveries.
These and other negligent actions during prenatal care, labor, and delivery can result in a variety of child injuries, including brain damage, cerebral palsy, dystocia, muscle damage, and tissue injuries. While some newborns heal from these conditions, others live with lifelong disabilities.
Based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statistics, drowning is the leading cause of death among children age 1 to 4. As with other types of accidental damages, drowning-related injuries and fatalities are usually preventable. Water-related accidents often involve property-owner negligence.
Consider the following causes of drowning accidents:
- Inadequate security (gates, locks, warning signs, lights);
- No pool cover when a pool is closed;
- Faulty drains, circulation systems, and other maintenance issues;
- No safety rules or lifeguards at public pools; and
- Diving boards and pool slides.
The Florida Department of Health documented annual statewide drowning statistics among children younger than 19.
Eight of these fatalities occurred in the Fort Lauderdale area, and five of the victims were between the ages of one and four.
- Florida drowning fatalities, 85
- Emergency department visits, 765
- Hospitalizations, 104
Near-drownings occur when a drowning victim inhales water before being rescued. If a child has already inhaled a significant amount of water, recovery efforts can’t always prevent injuries. When a child nearly drowns, aspirated water temporarily cuts off the body’s and the brain’s oxygen supplies. This often leaves young victims with anoxic brain damage, pneumonia, or bacterial infections. In the most severe situations, near-drowning leaves a child victim in a permanent vegetative state.
Motor Vehicle Accidents
The CDC has determined that each hour an average of 150 children across the country visit an emergency room for vehicle-accident-related treatment. The CDC also found that children ages 5 to 19 die from crash-related treatment more than any other injury type. Vehicle accidents occur every day. You can’t prevent a negligent driver from crashing into your car and injuring your children. As a parent, however, you can provide safety seats, booster seats, seatbelts, airbags, and other vehicle safety features to minimize harm.
The Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles’ (FLHSMV) Child Restraint Dashboard shows the following statistics for children 0 to 17 in the Fort Lauderdale area:
- Children involved in crashes 11,380
- Fatalities, 7
- Serious injuries, 55
- Incapacitating injuries, 584
- Possible injury, 1,498
When a child crosses a busy street, it’s a quick decision. Before stepping off the curb, each child relies on a set of underdeveloped skills that most adults take for granted. The children look for an opening in traffic, consider vehicle speed, and estimate traffic timing. Once they’ve considered the facts, they decide whether it’s safe to cross. Children must complete these same steps each time they cross the street. As children don’t have the same cognitive, observational, or judgment skills as adults, they sometimes miss critical safety cues. Children rely on vehicle operators to drive safely enough to avoid causing a collision.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) statistics show that 6,283 pedestrians died due to vehicle crashes in a recent year; that’s a 3 percent increase over the previous year. Children are particularly vulnerable to pedestrian accidents. NHTSA’s nationwide statistics show that 19 percent of young traffic accident victims (age 14 and younger) were pedestrians.
Florida’s young pedestrians risk injuries as well.
The FLHSMV’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Non-Motorist Data Dashboard shows that the number of child pedestrian casualties in the Fort Lauderdale area has remained consistent over the past few years.
- 2019 child pedestrians injuries, 931; fatalities, 34
- 2018 child pedestrians injuries, 1,007; fatalities, 28
- 2017 child pedestrian injuries, 1,071; fatalities, 28
Young bicyclists have problems in traffic that are similar to young pedestrians. When children are riding a bike, they become vulnerable to traffic. When children cross the street with a bike, they must make judgments about vehicle safety. A child must also rely on motorists to look out for them and stop in time to avoid a crash.
The Non-Motorists Injury Dashboard shows the following Fort Lauderdale area bicycle casualty statistics:
- 2019 child bicyclist injuries, 875; fatalities, 12
- 2018 child bicyclist injuries, 877; fatalities, 7
- 2017 child bicyclist injuries, 928; fatalities, 9
Florida’s non-fatal injury statistics for a recent year show that in the Fort Lauderdale area, 13,129 children ages 0 to 19 received emergency treatment due to falls. The CDC’s child fall prevention data shows that falls are a leading cause of childhood injury nationwide. Children fall on playgrounds, on sidewalks, at school, in recreation facilities, at friend’s and neighbor’s homes, and in many other locations. Nationally, approximately 8,000 children visit emergency departments for fall injury treatment each day, which totals 2.8 million children each year.
Other Types of Childhood Injuries
Children sustain injuries under many other circumstances.
The incident statistics vary, but some other types of accidents that can cause serious child injuries include:
- Dog bites: Information from the Florida Department of Health explains that children ages 1 to 6 are most at risk for dog bite injuries. When a dog attacks a child under the age of 10, the dog usually bites the head or neck.
- Sports: Concussions and their long-term consequences have kept contact sports in the spotlight. Children often sustain concussions while playing football and other contact sports. Concussions are mild traumatic brain injuries but still constitute serious injuries. Concussions often cause complications when injured children don’t receive the appropriate treatment.
- Product defects: Children sustain many types of injuries due to defective products. Defective appliances cause fires. Children suffocate due to unsafe plastic wrapping. Young children sustain injuries due to defectively designed and manufactured toys and baby equipment.
Should You Contact an Attorney to Handle Your Child’s Injury Claim?
When your child sustains injuries, you shouldn’t handle the legal issues on your own. At The Levin Firm, our personal injury lawyers work to resolve our clients’ legal issues while they care for their children. We have investigated all types of accidents and evaluated complex injuries. We have handled complex negotiations with insurance companies and their attorneys. In the past, we have negotiated settlements when the timing was appropriate. When litigation is the best option for our clients, we aren’t afraid to build a strong case and present it to the court.
Contact The Levin Firm at (954) 715-3260 or online to schedule a free consultation, during which you will discuss the details of your child’s accident and determine if you qualify to pursue compensation.