Claimants or plaintiffs must be 18 years old before filing a personal injury claim. That’s because a minor cannot enter into a legal contract. However, there are a couple of options minors and their parents or legal guardians might consider in these circumstances.
Tolling the Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations may toll (or stop running) until the injury victim turns 18. In Colorado, the statute of limitations is two years from the date of the injury to file a personal injury claim. If it involves a motor vehicle accident, it’s three years. A minor injured prior to turning 18 would be able to file a claim until he or she is 20 or 21, respectively.
This may be a good option for teenagers who are a few years from turning 18 and wish to pursue the case on their own once they are 18. It may also be an option for older teens whose parents were killed in an accident and who do not wish to involve others in the legal process. Minors and/or their parents should discuss this option with an attorney.
Appointment of a Guardian or Conservator
A minor may file the personal injury claim with the help of a guardian or conservator prior to turning 18 years old. This individual may or may not be a parent. But either way, a court must appoint the individual and must approve.
Guardianship means the person has legal power and is responsible for taking care of the minor. A parent or another adult may be appointed a conservator. But that person must be at least 21 years old and capable of making legal decisions that are in the child’s best interest. The court will make sure the person appointed doesn’t have some kind of agenda that would benefit him/her.
Probate court must also approve a settlement for a minor, evaluating whether it is in his or her best interest.
Legal Counsel When Filing a Personal Injury Claim on Behalf of a Minor
Whether a minor waits until turning 18 years old to file a claim or someone is appointed as a guardian/conservator, it usually necessitates securing legal representation. This is especially true if the injuries were severe or disabling. It’s important to make sure that all financial, physical and psychological losses are properly addressed in the claim or lawsuit.
An attorney can help establish negligence, which is the basis to any injury claim. It must be proven that someone else acted in a careless or reckless manner and that’s what caused the claimant to be injured. The types of proof will depend on the circumstances. For instance, with a car accident it could include a police report and witness statements. Additionally, an attorney will ensure that the compensation sought is fair.
The claim may take into account:
- medical bills;
- work time lost (if the victim was a teenager who had a job at the time);
- pain and suffering;
- reduced quality of life; and
- mental anguish.
Talk to D.J. Banovitz in the Aurora area about the rules for filing a personal injury claim before turning 18, and options if waiting until reaching age of maturity. Call (303) 300-5060 or contact us online to set up a legal consultation.