Suffering personal injury due to someone else’s negligence can be a traumatic and life-altering event for anyone. The physical and emotional aftermath, not to mention the confusing and exhausting legal battle that often follows can seem like a long and confusing uphill fight. When the unfortunate victim of personal injury happens to be a child, this battle becomes that much more difficult. Further, the potential lifelong consequences are far more severe and devastating for both the child and this child’s family and loved ones. As such, the Georgia legal system has ensured that there are special safeguards in place to protect these young and fragile victims of personal injury.

If your child or one of your loved one’s children has suffered personal injury due to someone else’s negligence, you will need to have a legal representative in your corner to help you understand and navigate exactly how the Georgia legislature and judicial system has enacted special laws to protect minors who have suffered personal injury.

Before we dive too deeply into the world of negligence as it specifically relates to minors, please know that you are not alone should you find yourself struggling to recover compensation on behalf of a child who has suffered personal injury. Experienced personal injury attorney in Atlanta, Georgia will fight this legal battle for you. You and your child have suffered enough. Let the Law Offices of John B. Jackson fight for you and the rights of your loved one. 

What Age is a Minor in Georgia?

A child, according to Georgia law, is any individual under the age of 18 years old. Even a teenager, technically considered a “young adult” is presumed to be a child for personal injury law. Whether a child is seven years old or 17 years old,  he or she has a tremendous amount of life yet to live. If your child is under the age of 18 years old, there are special rules that apply that are intended to ensure that your child receives full and fair compensation for his or her injuries.

Negligence: An Overview

There are certain commonalities that apply to anyone and everyone who has a potential personal injury claim. Whether a child or an adult happens to be the victim of personal injury, the basic legal requirements of a negligence claim are fairly common across the board. Namely, the injured party has the burden of proving four basic elements. Simply put, these elements are (1) duty (2) breach (3) causation, and (4) damages. While this area of law is extremely complex, understanding the fundamental requirements in this area of law will be helpful in understanding the nature and implications underlying the particular laws that apply to minors. 

An individual may be  guilty of negligence if found that that individual did not act as careful as any other individual would have under the circumstances. Further,  this person’s failure to be reasonably prudent must have been what ultimately resulted in the personal injury of another. 

What “reasonable” means does not have a straightforward definition. Rather, it varies from one case to the next. Nevertheless, it is the intent of the legislature that the legal definition of “unreasonableness” corresponds as closely as possible to that which each and every one of us would collectively consider wrong and irresponsible under the circumstances. Nevertheless, one answer certainly cannot account for very set of circumstances, which is exactly why a legal representative will be essential in your personal injury action. 

Negligence Revised: Protecting the Most Fragile

If navigating the Georgia laws surrounding negligence isn’t already making your head spin, things only get more complicated when a child is involved. However, the added complexity is a welcomed trade- off when it comes to ensuring that there are special rules in place to protect our youth. 

Legal Differences in Personal Injury Cases When a Minor is Involved

The Wonderful Tender Years Doctrine

With respect to negligence in general, there are rules in place that lessen an injured individual’s right to recovery to the extent that his or her negligence contributed to the injury at issue. For adult Plaintiffs, this makes sense. 

Nevertheless, while the concept of comparative negligence makes sense in the world of grown-ups, it simply does not apply when a child is involved. For example, if a day care center supervisor failed to properly supervise the 3-year olds on a playground, certainly a three-year-old that suffers a personal injury shouldn’t be held “comparatively negligent” for failing to recognize that the broken jungle gym equipment posed a hazard. It is common knowledge that children do not possess the same capacity to understand and appreciate danger and risk that an adult otherwise would. Thankfully, the Georgia legal system recognized this key difference. 

As set forth by Georgia’s “Tender Years Doctrine”, children are not treated like adults to assess comparative negligence. Some of the specific differences that apply under this doctrine are as follows:

  1. The general presumption that a child who is four years old or younger is presumed to be incapable of any legal negligence
  2. Children between the ages of 5 to 13 are to be judged on an individual basis depending upon his or her particular capacity.
  3. If a child is 14 to 17, while they are more likely to be held to the typical adult standard of negligence, there are still grounds to argue that such young adults should be granted some leeway and held to a more lenient standard or that of a typical adolescent of similar age. 

Capacity to Sue and Settlement

The technical legal jargon, “Guardian Ad Litem,” simply means that a child must have a legal representative authorized to make financial decisions on his or her behalf. By law, a child cannot sue. However, there is a legal process in place to ensure that an adult is appointed to pursue legal compensation for a child who is the victim of personal injury. For the same reason, there are narrowly tailored laws in place relating to the handling of a child’s settlement proceeds. These extremely stringent laws are in place to ensure that a child’s settlement proceeds are adequately protected until the child becomes an adult. 

Schedule a Consultation with an Atlanta Personal Injury Attorney

If your child is suffering from injuries and someone else is to blame, contact an experienced Atlanta personal injury attorney at the Law Offices of John B. Jackson today to determine whether you have a case. You can schedule an appointment at no charge to you. Call us today.

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