Managing a Personal Injury Claim for a Child When You Share Custody with Another Parent

young woman by the car after an accident and a man making a phone call.
If your child suffers an injury due to someone else’s negligence, you may have a basis for a personal injury claim. However, pursuing legal action can become complicated when parents share custody. Careful communication and collaboration are key for taking the right steps to get compensation for your child while maintaining a cooperative co-parenting relationship. Working with an experienced personal injury attorney can help guide you through the process.

Notifying the Other Parent

Once it’s determined your child’s injury may warrant a claim, notify the other parent right away. Explain what happened and why you feel a claim could help your child. Gauge if they seem open to pursuing it or if they have any concerns. Address questions openly and directly. Though you likely share legal rights, it’s ideal to be on the same page. According to a Pew Research study, over half of divorces involve joint legal custody arrangements. So, in most cases, both parents should consent to filing a claim.

Selecting a Personal Injury Attorney

Ideally, both parents will agree on which attorney to hire. Look for someone experienced in child injury cases and custody disputes. If opinions differ, you may need to consult attorneys separately first. But using one lawyer is best to avoid conflicts of interest. Demonstrate to the other parent that your chosen Philly personal injury lawyer will represent your child’s interests above all else. Once retained, the lawyer should communicate with both parents equally.

Investigating the Accident

Your attorney will investigate liability and damages related to the accident. This may involve interviewing you, your child and witnesses, obtaining police and medical records, examining evidence and more. The lawyer must keep both custodial parents informed. Schedule meetings together or ask for separate updates to stay on the same page. According to a report from the Administration of Emergency Medicine, over 300 million children were seen in emergency rooms for injuries between 2006-2014. So, child accident cases require thorough investigation.

Deciding Whether to Settle

Before filing a lawsuit, the defendant will likely make a settlement offer. Your attorney should explain your options clearly. Settlements avoid court but also forgo the possibility of a bigger jury award later. Consider your child’s current and future medical needs, recovery time, permanent limitations, and other factors. The CDC puts the economic cost of injury at $4.2 trillion and $327 billion of this is related to medical care, so the numbers are significant. Also, discuss the emotional impact of pressing forward to trial versus getting closure through settlement. Weigh the risks and make a cooperative choice in your child’s best interest.

Filing a Lawsuit

If efforts to negotiate a fair settlement fail, your attorney may recommend filing a lawsuit. Both parents should agree before taking this serious step. Your lawyer will help compile the complaint documenting your child’s damages, the defendant’s liability, and your demand for compensation. Attorneys handle filings, but custody arrangements can determine who becomes the plaintiff of record. In most states, either custodial parent can file as next friend on a minor child’s behalf.

Managing Trial or Settlement Details

If you settle, carefully review the terms together before signing. Make sure the compensation sufficiently covers current and future medical care, therapy, and other needs related to the injury. If you proceed to trial, your attorney will handle court filings and appearances. You may be asked to testify and help prep your child’s testimony. Work closely with your lawyer through trial, mediation or settlement negotiations. Avoid directly contacting the defense to prevent miscommunications that could undermine the case.

Pursuing injury compensation for your child while co-parenting requires open communication and joint decision-making. Through teamwork and compassion for your child’s needs, you can secure a better recovery without undermining your ongoing parenting relationship.

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