When a child is injured at a daycare center in an accident, parents may want to look at making a civil claim for damages against the daycare center. This article covers an outline of the claims process and other relevant information.
In Texas, injury claims that involve a minor are handled differently than if the injured person is an adult. With an injury to a minor, even where a settlement is reached, a lawsuit must be filed. A judge will appoint an ad-litem, who is an attorney, to advise the court on the fairness of any settlement agreement with the minor. Courts in Texas take the role of protecting the minor’s interests particularly seriously.
If the case is not settled, the general rules of litigation apply, and the burden of proof falls upon the family to prove negligence by the daycare center and the damages incurred. Selecting the best daycare injury lawyer should be a priority of the parents of an injured child.
Often Daycare Centers Don’t Follow the Rules.
Daycare centers must operate under safety rules promulgated by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services under the Minimum Standards for Childcare Centers in Texas. The regulations and law that applies to daycare centers in Texas are voluminous. Choosing an experienced attorney for daycare negligence litigation is essential.
Steps After you Learn of Your Child’s Injury
- Do your best to speak with the witnesses to the incident. All too often, the story that the family is told right after the injury differs from what happened. The daycare center must have a parent or guardian sign an incident sheet. Always ask for names and details.
- Keep a log of your child’s medical appointments and statements by the physicians.
- Always follow the doctor’s instructions to the letter.
- Be prepared to be contacted by Texas Child Protective Services. Texas Child Protective Services will investigate and routinely speaks with parents.
- Do not count on Child Protective Services to make judgment calls on responsibility. Their role is to a) protect the child and b) write-up clear rules violations. Even if the daycare center is not cited for a rule violation, it does not mean they are not legally responsible for the injury.
- Locate an experienced daycare negligence lawyer.
How to Choose a Daycare Negligence Attorney
Many personal injury attorneys handle all types of personal injury cases. But, if the injury to your child is substantial, you may find an attorney who handles a significant number of daycare negligence cases. The rules and regulations that apply to daycare are very detailed. Choosing a lawyer who has won many settlements and lawsuits against daycare’s should be a consideration. You do not want an attorney learning while handling your case.
Factors to consider:
- The number of daycare injury cases that your attorney has handled.
- How many settlements the law firm has been awarded for injuries at daycare centers.
- The reputation of the law firm and attorney you have chosen.
Also, consider whether you feel that the attorney can dedicate the time and attention to your case needed for maximum results.
Avoid advertising attorneys and high-volume law firms. Instead, consider looking for an attorney that can give you results and personal service.
What Options are Available for Daycare Settlement Money
Most cases involving young children injured at a daycare center will be resolved before trial. The claims that cannot be settled will include a trial to the judge or jury. Steps are taken by most courts to protect the interests of the minor. This includes keeping their personal information private and ensuring any money paid is handled appropriately in the eyes of the court.
Generally, there are two options for handling settlement money from daycare injury cases. The first involves depositing the minor’s portion of the settlement into the registry of the court. When the funds are deposited into the registry of the court, they accrue a small interest rate. The funds are then available to the child once the child turns 18 years old. While the advantage of this approach is the safety of the funds, there are a few downsides.
The second option involves purchasing an insurance contract or policy to be payable to the minor once they have passed age 18 at specified dates. This approach is usually used when the settlement money is significant.
Considerations for the parents are the timing of the payments and do they want their child to spend all the money at 18 should they choose. Most parents delay the funding to their child until the child has reached a more responsible age. The “interest” that accrues under the insurance policy is not taxable as interest because of the structured settlement.
The Role of the Court Appointed Attorney
In every case in Texas, where a parent has brought a personal injury lawsuit on behalf of the injured child, the court will appoint an “ad litem.” Whose role is to protect the interest of the minor child. The ad litem advises the court on the fairness of the settlement and distributing proceeds.
The ad litem will typically meet with the family, discuss the case with the attorneys, and also review case documents. The attorney appointed by the judge will decide on the fairness of the settlement to the minor.
A formal hearing will be conducted by the judge in a court where the case falls. The family member who sued will testify under oath. The ad litem will also testify and advise the court as to fairness.
How to Value a Daycare Injury Case
The value of the injury case of a minor child at daycare will depend upon many factors. An experienced attorney handled child injury cases for years should be in an excellent position to advise a parent as to the value of the injury claim. Some factors used in valuing injuries to children are:
· How permanent are the injuries
· Medical care past and future
· Available insurance coverage
· Pain-and-suffering and disability
· How clear is the liability on behalf of the daycare center?
Contrary to popular belief, there is no set formula for damages in child injury cases. Texas jurors have been very sympathetic over the years to young children injured.