Children injured in Pennsylvania slip and fall or trip and fall accidents may receive financial compensation for their injuries. Our injury lawyers discuss child injury accidents, including: who the parties are, what to expect, the types of claims available and the time deadlines to file.
Who are the Parties?
When a child is injured in any kind of accident, like a fall accident at a playground or an auto accident, there are two potential lawsuits. One belongs to the child, and the other belongs to the parents/guardians.
In Pennsylvania, a child who is injured in a fall accident has a cause of action against the negligent party. The claims for compensation are limited to losses or injuries the child suffered. Typically, the sole claim is for pain and suffering, which includes physical pain, mental or emotional trauma, physical scarring, etc.
In addition, the parent or legal guardian would have their own, separate claim for medical bills and other expenses incurred or paid on behalf of the injured child. Parents do not have their own claims for the child’s pain and suffering. Those claims belong to the child.
In the underlying lawsuit (Child v. Negligent Party), the parent or guardian would file the lawsuit on the child’s behalf. If the parent or guardian incurred expenses for the child’s injuries, the parent/guardian may also have their own claim, which is subject to a 2 year statute of limitations period. See below for a full discussion on time deadlines in child injury cases.
Under PA law, any person or business whose negligent conduct causes injury to another person may be held liable. In fall accident cases involving children, defendants often include stores, malls, and businesses that cater to children, such as children’s museums, play grounds or parks. In addition, private individuals may be defendants in cases where a child trips and falls on a sidewalk or at another person’s home.
Also, government entities may be liable for injuries that happen on public grounds, like a playground. For example, a child is playing at their local township playground and trips over a large tree root that has invaded the playground area. The local township is responsible for maintaining the playground and may therefore be liable.
What Can You Expect?
The steps in a child injury lawsuit are no different than in personal injury lawsuits involving adult plaintiffs. Once the case is filed, the parties will work up the case. This includes exchanging information and evidence about the case, as well as deposing witnesses.
Once the case is worked up from an investigation standpoint, the parties will prepare their cases for trial. This is basically getting your ducks in a row, i.e., preparing witnesses, trial exhibits, etc.
However, most child injury cases settle before trial. In fact, the odds of going to trial in a child fall accident case are pretty low. Only about 1 out of 10 cases will go to trial. This is true in Philadelphia, Delaware County and Montgomery County.
What is the Time Deadline?
Under Pennsylvania law, children have until they reach the age of 20 to file their lawsuit. However, it is not advisable to wait that long to take legal action, especially when the injury occurs earlier in life. Valuable witness information and evidence becomes harder to locate as time goes on.
Parents only have 2 years from the date of the incident to file claims to receive compensation for their financial losses (medical bills, out of pockets, etc.) due to their child’s injury.
Waivers of Liability in Child Fall Accident Cases
One issue that comes up in child fall accident cases in Pennsylvania is the impact a signed waiver has on the child and parent’s legal rights. For example, a child goes to a jump/trampoline park and trips over wires that aren’t taped properly on the floor. The child’s parent signed a waiver for their child. Does the waiver affect the case?
Typically, Pennsylvania courts only apply waivers as to the parent, not the child. Parents are not legally allowed to sign away the rights of their children. So, when a parent signs a waiver for their child, the waiver will be applied to bar the parent’s claim for financial compensation. The waiver will not be applied to the child’s claim.
However, it is up to the defendant to produce the signed waiver. In some cases, due to poor record keeping or issues with electronic waivers, the defendant may not be able to produce the valid, executed waiver. In this case, the parent’s claim would survive, assuming the time deadline is met.