In general, a person cannot sue on behalf of another person unless there is a special relationship which gives them this right. Some common examples where you can sue on behalf of another include, if you are the parent or natural guardian, if you have power of attorney or if you are the administrator of an estate.
Filing a Lawsuit on Behalf of a Minor
When a minor suffers a serious injury, such as an injury caused by a slip and fall accident, he or she has a right to seek compensation for medical bills, pain and suffering, and other losses and hardships caused by the accident. However, Pennsylvania’s laws generally prevent minors from filing lawsuits, which means that a parent or guardian will have to handle the legal process.
Common Types of Childhood Injuries in the U.S.
According to the CDC, accidental injuries bring more than 9 million children to U.S. emergency departments each year. Accidental falls were the most common cause of injury for all ages up to 15, accounting for just over half of all injuries in this age group: about 2.8 million emergency department visits.
Other leading causes of child injury by age group were:
- Age 0 to 9 – Being struck by an object, being stung or bitten by an insect or animal
- Age 10 to 14 – Being struck by an object, injury caused by overexertion
- Age 15 to 19 – Being struck by an object, being injured in a car accident
Depending on a child’s age, there are certain types of injuries he or she is at greater statistical risk for. For example, the CDC found that nonfatal suffocation injuries were more likely to occur in children under 12 months than in any other demographic, likely because toys, packaging materials, and common household items can all become choking hazards for curious babies who are just learning how to crawl around and explore the world.
Both burns and nonfatal drowning injuries were most common in children aged four or younger, while poisoning injuries were most common in children aged one to four.
With the exception of children under one year old, when injury rates were similar, boys in all age groups were more likely to be injured than girls, regardless of the type of accident involved.
If My Son or Daughter Was Injured in an Accident, Can I Sue on Their Behalf?
When an adult is hurt by a careless person, or is injured on another person’s property, he or she can call up an attorney and begin the process of fighting to recover compensation. Obviously, a toddler or young child does not have this option, nor indeed do minors even have the ability to sue on their own behalf, as 231 Pa. Code Rule 2027 provides the following:
“When a party to an action, a minor shall be represented by a guardian who shall supervise and control the conduct of the action in behalf of the minor.”
246 Pa. Code Rule 802 states that “a minor need not be represented by a guardian in a civil action before a magisterial district judge,” but magisterial district judges, or MDJs, only hear cases in which plaintiffs are seeking $12,000 in damages or less. Needless to say, $12,000 is nowhere near sufficient to compensate the enormous medical costs associated with serious injuries – especially once the indirect costs of an injury, such as transportation expenses and taking time off of work, start to add up.
While a minor cannot sue for more than $12,000 without being represented by a guardian, he or she still has the right to be compensated for an injury, just like an adult would. In this situation, the child’s parents or guardians would need to manage the legal work – ideally, with help from an experienced personal injury attorney, who will make sure you do not miss any deadlines, leave out any documents, make any detrimental statements, or exclude any evidence or information which could help your family recover compensation.
Once an unemancipated minor in Pennsylvania turns 18 years old and becomes a legal adult, he or she has two years in which to file a lawsuit involving a childhood injury. This two-year deadline is called the statute of limitations. If the statute of limitations expires, the case will not be able to proceed through the court system, so it’s extremely important to start sooner rather than later if you or your teenage son or daughter is thinking about taking legal action.
If your minor child was the victim of a serious injury, it’s up to you to be their voice – but you don’t have to speak for them alone. Attorney Brent Wieand dedicates his legal practice to representing injury victims of all ages throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and has helped numerous children recover compensation for injuries caused by automotive accidents, defective products, medical malpractice, and more. To set up a free and completely confidential legal consultation with Brent, call the Wieand Law Firm, LLC at (800) 481-5206 today.
***Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes. It is not legal advice and should not be used as legal advice.***