FAQ: What should I do if my child was in a car accident? | Allen and Allen

FAQ: What should I do if my child was in a car accident?

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an estimated 139,042 children were injured in traffic crashes in 2020.  Many of those children were injured while in the vehicle of someone other than their parent or custodian.

a group of children waving from a moving, open Jeep

Some were injured while being transported to daycare, or on one of the 475,000 school buses that run each day in the United States. More commonly, crashes or injuries happen while the child is in the vehicle of a close friend or relative.

When parents of injured children seek my counsel, there are a few questions that come up on every occasion. Here are some of them:

Is my child covered under my automobile insurance coverage?

If you look at your personal automobile insurance policy, you will not see the names of your non-driving-aged children. Do not let this omission dissuade you from seeking coverage under your policy for any child in your household. Virginia insurance policies have a resident relative provision that allows children to receive settlement money from a parent’s insurance policy in any situation where coverage of the at-fault driver is insufficient (through recovering under the underinsured motorist or “UIM” portion of the parent’s policy) or non-existent (through the uninsured portion or “UM” portion of the policy).

Every time your child leaves home and enters a motor vehicle, your personal automobile insurance coverage follows that child. The resident relative provision is what my clients bargain for every time they pay their insurance carrier for coverage.

When I explain this provision to clients, they frequently ask “Will my rates go up?” No, they will not. In Virginia, § 38.2-1905 states, “No insurer may increase its insured’s premium or may charge points under a safe driver insurance plan to its insured as a result of a motor vehicle accident, unless the accident was caused either wholly or partially by the named insured, a resident of the same household, or other customary operator.” There is no downside to asserting your bargained-for rights to recovery.

young girl in an arm cast

How much time do I have to settle my child’s claim?

In Virginia, adults must file a lawsuit or settle their claim before the two-year anniversary of the event that caused their injury.  If they do not, their right to recovery is forever extinguished.  Fortunately for injured children, there is a significant grace period for injured minors.  In Virginia, children injured before their eighteenth birthday have until their 20th birthday to settle their claim or file a suit. 

I stress these dates to my clients because this extended statute of limitations often allows for hurt children to fully treat the injuries caused by the negligence of another. We all recognize that children are notoriously resilient. They often walk off injuries or “play through the pain.” Resilience, however, should not be synonymous with a clean bill of health. Injuries to children will follow them during their maturation into adulthood and on their medical chart – much longer than the two years associated with an injured adult’s statute of limitations.

young girl getting buckled into her car seat by her father

When we settle, where does my child’s money go?

Long story short: The money goes to the child on their 18th birthday.  The money awarded to your child through trial or settlement is held in an interest-bearing account with the clerk of court for the circuit court where the infant (person under 18 years of age) settlement is filed.

Specifically, under Virginia Code Section 8.01-424 the insurance company paying the funds will (typically) petition the court for an infant settlement.  The insurance company and the parents of the infant will appear before a Circuit Court Judge, who will determine whether the settlement is in the best interest of the child.  Upon a finding that the settlement is in the best interest of the child, the judge will sign an order depositing the net settlement funds with the circuit court clerk until the infant (person under 18 years of age) turns 18.

If your child has been injured in an accident through no fault of their own, call the car accident lawyers at Allen & Allen today for a free case evaluation at 866-388-1307.