Some personal injuries are so severe the victim cannot pursue a personal injury lawsuit on his or her own. Maybe the victim is mentally incapacitated from his or her injuries. Other times, the victim may have lost his or her life as a result of the injury that was suffered. Still in other cases, the victim is too young to advocate on his or her own behalf.
Fortunately, the law allows some claims to be filed on another’s behalf. Below, learn more about these situations and rules that apply. As these situations can be very complicated, it is important to seek qualified legal help.
Geoff McDonald and Associates is here to assist injury victims and their families. We understand how difficult these situations are, and we are committed to seeking maximum compensation on behalf of our clients. There are no upfront fees for our services.
Filing a Lawsuit on a Minor’s Behalf
Virginia does not permit minors to file personal injury lawsuits. These lawsuits can only be filed by those who are 18 years of age or older. However, Virginia law does allow the “next friend” of the child to file a lawsuit. The next friend is usually the child’s parent or legal guardian, but it could also be any adult a court says is a proper representative.
While the child has the option of allowing another representative to file a lawsuit on his or her behalf, he or she could also wait until he or she turns 18. While the statute of limitations for a personal injury lawsuit is two years from the date of injury, in the case of a child, the statute does not start to run until the child reaches 18 years of age. That means the child would have until his or her 20th birthday to file a personal injury lawsuit.
How are the Child’s Interests Protected?
Unfortunately, adults often take advantage of children. To reduce the risk of that happening, compensation awarded in a lawsuit involving a child is typically placed into an interest-bearing account. Once the injured child reaches the age of 18, he or she will be able to access those funds.
When a settlement is agreed upon, it is submitted to the court for approval. The court will then assess the settlement agreement to determine whether it is in the best interests of the child. Often, the court appoints guardian ad litem to review the settlement terms and tell the court whether he or she thinks it is fair. The guardian ad litem is often an attorney.
In certain situations, courts have the authority to give a portion of the settlement to the parents. This money would be used for the benefit of the child. For example, maybe it would be used to pay for specialized equipment and medical interventions.
Filing a Lawsuit on Behalf of a Deceased Loved One
When a personal injury is so severe it results in death, family members may have the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit to obtain compensation.
There is an order to who can sue. For example, spouses and children are given priority (this may include adopted children and grandchildren in certain situations). Next in line would be parents, siblings and other relatives, if there were no spouses or children who survived the deceased.
If none of the above are alive, beneficiaries who will inherit the estate may have the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit. A wrongful death claim is not the same as a survival action.
What Happens if the Victim is Mentally Incapacitated?
If an injury results in mental incapacitation, the statute of limitations will be tolled – paused – until the victim is ruled to have regained his or her mental capacity.
However, it is also possible for a conservator or guardian of the victim to file a lawsuit on that person’s behalf. A conservator or guardian is given the authority to act on this person’s behalf. Generally, under Virginia’s statute of limitations, this person will have either two years from the date of injury or one year from his or her appointment to file a lawsuit, whichever date comes later.
Essentially, anyone can file a petition with a Virginia Circuit Court to be a guardian or conservator. Once the petition is filed, the court will hold a hearing to determine if the guardianship is necessary and who should be given this responsibility.
Need Help with the Legal Process? Schedule a Free Consultation Today
Our experienced Richmond personal injury attorneys are ready to assist you in pursuing full compensation for damages suffered by you or your loved one. If you think you may have a valid case, give us a call today to schedule an initial consultation.
There are no upfront fees or obligations for our services so there is no risk to you in contacting us to learn more.
Geoff McDonald and Associates. We are here to help. Phone: (866) 369-9051