Atlanta Child Injury Lawyer
Our injury law firm has represented numerous children in Atlanta, and throughout the state of Georgia, who have been injured in car accidents, truck collisions, bicycle accidents, daycare injuries, and as a result of child product defects.
Representing children in injury lawsuits requires an experienced, skilled, and understanding trial attorney. First, children are frequently unable to appreciate various dangers with which they are confronted. For example, children are often injured by toys, products geared toward infants and toddlers, and by dangerous conditions present around playgrounds and swimming pools. Companies which sell children’s products and premises owners who allow children to be present on their property must take appropriate precaution to protect kids. Moreover, business like daycares, which are specifically created in order to care for children, must hire, train, and retain qualified employees. O.C.G.A. § 20-1A-1 et seq. establishes a Board of Early Care and Learning in Georgia, which governs the conduct of day-care facilities.
Injuries to children may also be different than injuries to adults. For example, young children who suffer broken bones may need special attention from orthopedic surgeons and other specialists to ensure that such injuries do not pose long-term risks for the child. When a young child suffers a head injury special care may also be required as the child’s brain may still be developing. For more information visit Mr. Goldner’s Child Injury Site.
Georgia Statutes of Limitation for Injury to Children
In general, Georgia has a two year statute of limitation for personal injury actions. O.C.G.A. § 9-3-33. When injury to a child is at issue, the statute of limitations is tolled (does not begin running) until the child’s 18th birthday. Thus, in most cases, the claims must be brought before the child’s 20th birthday. When a child has incurred medical expenses, the parents have the right to bring an action for the medical expenses that the child will accrue until he or she reaches 18 years of age. O.C.G.A. § 19-7-2. Thus, the best practice is for the parents’ claim for medical expenses to be brought within two years of the date the child is injured.
With respect to the statute of limitations, one very important exception exists in claims for medical malpractice. The child’s medical malpractice claim (usually the pain and suffering component of the claim and medical expenses incurred after the child turns 18 years of age) is tolled only until the 5th birthday (which means the claims must be filed before the child’s 7th birthday) instead of the 18th birthday and thereafter the regular two year statute of limitation applies. O.C.G.A. § 9-3-73(b). While the law gives children under five years of age additional time to bring a medical malpractice action, parents still must file their claim for the child’s medical expenses within two years of the date of the injury.
Injuries from Daycare
As an Atlanta attorney who has handled numerous cases against child care and daycare centers, I am disturbed by the number of injuries to children at daycare facilities in Georgia. Recently, a child died at Marlo’s Magnificant Early Learning Center, a facility in Clayton County, after she was left in a van after a field trip. Temperatures approached the mid-90’s on the day of the child’s death.
This child’s death follows the death of a five month old in Kennesaw, Georgia in May 2011. The infant was left in a car outside the facility.
Bright from the Start, part of Georgia’s Department of Early Learning and Care, is the agency which monitors and sanctions daycare facilities in Georgia. This agency keeps records of inspections on facilities in Georgia and is vested with the authority to discipline wayward child care businesses.
Wrongful Death of a Child
The right to recover money damages for the wrongful death of a child (who dies without leaving a spouse or child) rests with the parents of the deceased child if they are married or living together. This is generally pursued as one civil action. If both parents of the deceased child are living, but are divorced, separated, or living apart, then the right to pursue the action lies with both parents. Either parent may ask the Court to allocate proceeds between the parents considering many factors, such as support, time spent with the child, etc. In the event that there is no surviving parent, then an administrator of the child’s estate can bring a claim on behalf of the next of kin (often a sibling or grandparent).
Liability Issues With Children
Many people wonder if a child can be held accountable for certain actions which might be considered negligent. For example, what if a child is injured due to the negligence of someone else, but the child also acted inappropriately in some way? Whether or not a young child may be negligent is always the subject of much debate under Georgia law. Specifically, whether a jury may consider if young child has been negligent or exercised “due care” is a tricky one. Georgia law mandates that “the term ‘due care,’ when used in reference to a child of tender years, is such care as the child’s mental and physical capacities enable him to exercise in the actual circumstances of the occasion and situation under investigation.” O.C.G.A. § 51-1-5. This seems to indicate that Georgia law mandates that each situation be assessed in light of the particular child and specific actions at issue.
Therefore, Georgia courts have held that “the jury is in the best position to size up all the particular evidence in the case and bring its collective common knowledge of children’s capacities to bear in determining first, whether the child was capable of negligence in the premises and second, whether the child was negligent.”Pearson v. Small World Day Care Center, Inc., 234 Ga. App. 843, 845 (1998). The conclusion reached from this case and others is that a jury in Georgia is generally authorized to decide whether or not a young child is capable of negligence.
Injuries to Children At Georgia Daycare Facilities
For many children, attendance at daycare can be a tremendous opportunity to interact with other kids, improve social skills, and learn independence. Unfortunately, Georgia daycares are too often profit-driven to the point that they are understaffed, continue to employ poor performing individuals, or operate in other ways that are dangerous to children. There are many wonderful daycare centers in and around the Atlanta, Georgia area; however, over the last few years, our law firm has represented the families of a number of children who have suffered injuries during times when parents have placed the safety of their kids in the hands of people who are supposed to be professionals.
Car Accidents in Georgia remain Top Killer of Children
Car accidents in Atlanta remain the primary cause of death for all children in Georgia between the ages of 1 and 12. Many times, parents do everything they can to safeguard their children and, unfortunately, bad outcomes still occur. However, child injuries and death during Georgia car accidents can be minimized or prevented by taking simple precautions. Amazingly, NHTSA–the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (the entity that regulates child safety seats)– reports that approximately 40% of kids who suffer terrible injuries or death during an auto collision are unrestrained or not restrained properly. Considering that car seats are over 70% effective at preventing injury to infants during a crash, parents must take the time to learn how to use the child safety seats effectively.
In Georgia, lawmakers have recognized the importance of child safety seats. Georgia law mandates that all children under 6 years old must ride in the backseat of a car. Importantly, it does not matter how tall the child is–he or she must ride in the backseat until over the age of 6. If there is no back seat in a vehicle, such as in some pick-up trucks, the child may ride in the front seat if he or she is properly restrained.
Children under 6 also must be in a child seat or booster seat which is suitable for the age and height. Pediatricians are good resources if parents have any questions.
Finally, many consumers’ reports are available on-line allowing parents to shop for, and more importantly, compare various child safety seats.
Atlanta Personal Injury Lawyer for DUI Accidents
Our Atlanta-based injury law firm has had the privilege of representing many children who have been injured due to the negligence or recklessness of others. All child injury cases are terrible, as no child in Atlanta, or anywhere else, should ever be injured because someone else was careless. However, among the most egregious cases we see are those involving kids who have been badly injured by drunk drivers operating on Georgia’s roads and highways.
The harm associated with driving drunk is obvious and well-documented. Our law firm has handled countless drunk driving injury matters over the last decade. Often, adults are injured in these wrecks. And, too often, children traveling with adult drivers are injured. When children suffer injury in drunk driving wrecks, or really in any other sort of collision or accident where another party is at fault, parents often ask us what legal rights their kids have, what legal rights they (the parents have), and how to best protect their children within the Georgia legal system.
First, just like adults children in Georgia are allowed to recover general, special, and, punitive damages after drunk driving accidents. General damages are things like pain and suffering, disfigurement from injuries, and those damages that cannot be quantified into exact numbers. The personal injury lawyer’s job is to make the insurance adjuster or jury place a number on the child’s pain, suffering, and the like. Next, special damages are those which can be quantified, or upon which a numerical value can be placed. For example, hospital bills, doctors’ bills, and pharmacy bills are examples of special damages. In Georgia, parents have the right to recover for medical expenses incurred by their children through the age of 18. After 18 years of age, the responsibility for medical bills, and therefore the right to recover those from at at-fault person or company, lies with the young adult. The statute of limitations for medical expenses incurred, or to be incurred through the age of 18, runs two years from the date of the accident. The statute of limitations for the child’s future medical expenses, after 18, is tolled (or delayed) until the child’s 20th birthday. The claim for the child’s general damages (pain, suffering, and the like) is tolled until the child’s 20th birthday.
Last, punitive damages are available when a child is injured in a Georgia drunk driving wreck. Punitive damages are those intended to punish the defendant/drunk driver and deter other people from engaging in the same behavior. In essence, punitive damages are civil penalties or fines. Sometimes, punitive damages implicate various insurance coverage issues and a personal injury lawyer should be consulted to work through those matters.
One common type of daycare injury is a burn to a child. Why? Among other ways, children can suffer burns at daycares on playground equipment that is too hot, overheated sidewalks, and from hot liquids left within their reach. Young children are often not able to determine whether swings, slides, or other typical playground apparatus are safe for use. As such, childcare workers should inspect equipment on hot days before allowing children to use it—yet, many times no such inspection is conducted. In addition, when daycare workers leave coffee, hot tea, or hot water within reach of children, those liquids can burn the child when a cup or pot is grabbed by a curious kid and tips over.
Our law firm has also represented children who have been injured by falling objects. Again, too often, careless daycare employees leave heavy or otherwise dangerous objects within reach of children who are natural “explorers.” Children will accidentally pull a dangerous item down onto themselves or another kid. These sorts of mishaps can results in lacerations to the body, head injury, or broken bones from the falling objects.
Not surprisingly, with the rise of ‘smartphone’ use, injuries to children are increasing. iPhones, iPads, laptops, and the myriad of other personal computers readily available today often cause daycare workers to become distracted. The result of having distracted daycare workers is injury to the children they should be supervising.
Next, abuse by daycare workers is, unfortunately, a reality. To state the obvious, children are extremely vulnerable, essentially defenseless, and usually cannot communicate to parents if abuse is occurring. Clearly, there is no reason for a daycare employee to hit, strike, aggressively handle, or otherwise injure a child. Very occasionally, such abuse is caught on video, but usually co-workers are the only “checks” on their fellow employees’ behavior. Our law firm simply does not believe abuse or injury to any child, anywhere, at any daycare is acceptable and we aggressively fight for children under these circumstances.
In Georgia, the state agency ‘Bright from the Start’ monitors, investigates, and regulates daycare centers. The agency does a nice job, but like many governmental entities, they are underfunded and understaffed. The agency does have a catalog of records on most state-accredited childcare facilities and can be a good source of information about particular daycares and any prior problems at a facility. Our law firm welcomes the chance to fight for a child who has been injured at a daycare or anywhere else.
Has Your Child Been Injured? Contact Andy Goldner, the Atlanta Child Injury Lawyer
Law Offices of Andrew Goldner, LLC
Phone: (404) 869-1580