What If Your Child Is Injured In A Car Accident?

The age of majority in B.C. is 19, so if your child is hurt in a car crash before reaching 19, she’s still a “minor” or “infant.”

Of course, your first concern will be to ensure the best medical and psychological help for her afterwards – a car crash can be traumatic for a child.

If her injuries came about through someone else’s fault (almost certainly the case with a younger child), she may be entitled to money compensation – sometimes a lot if the injuries were serious, requiring long-term care and/or affecting her earning capacity later on. But there are special rules that apply to claims by minors, intended for their protection. Here are some key ones.

The deadline for starting a lawsuit for money compensation is usually longer for children – the normal, maximum two-year deadline post-accident only begins once your child reaches 19 (there are exceptions though).

But beware – you should see a lawyer promptly after the accident anyway. There are other steps you must take in very short order, like making a report to ICBC about the accident. As well, it may be important for the lawyer to hire accident reconstruction experts and take additional action promptly, before too much time passes and makes things hard to prove.

Your child will need a “litigation guardian” appointed to represent her while a minor – she’s too young to represent herself until she legally becomes an adult. Usually you, as the child’s parent or legal guardian, will be the litigation guardian, so long as the accident isn’t your fault.

If the child’s claim is against you, however, as a person who may have caused or contributed to the crash, then someone else must become the child’s “litigation guardian.”

It may seem odd that a child (through a “litigation guardian”) would sue a loving parent. But a parent almost always has liability insurance, available to compensate their child for her injuries caused by the legal fault of the parent.

If the child’s physical and/or psychological injuries aren’t just minor and fleeting, it often makes sense not to settle her claim too hastily, so you can see how the child’s development may be affected by the accident over time.

Any proposed out-of-court settlement of a claim by a minor has to be approved by the office of the Public Guardian and Trustee, whether or not a lawsuit has been started.

For settlement amounts up to $50,000 that are approved by the Public Guardian and Trustee, no court approval is needed. For settlement amounts over $50,000, court approval is needed, and the Public Guardian and Trustee makes recommendations to the court about whether or not the proposed settlement is appropriate (including as to the proposed legal fees of the child’s lawyer).

Once a settlement is approved, the compensation amount must be paid to the Public Guardian and Trustee (not the parents), and is distributed to your injured minor child only when she becomes an adult at age 19.

This column has been written by Janice Mucalov LL.B as part of “You And The Law”. It provides information only and must not be relied on for legal advice. Names of the parties in reported cases have been changed or removed to protect their identity. Lawyer Janice Mucalov is an award-winning legal writer.

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