The short answer is yes. By law, the at-fault person’s insurance company owes you for all the damages you suffer as a result of an accident. Damages include things in the past, present and future. Future damages are more difficult to predict. The law requires that future damages are proven with reasonable certainty; specifically, future issues must be proven to be more likely than not.
When you resolve a personal injury claim, whether by settlement or jury verdict, it is important to know that the settlement or verdict is final. There are no second opportunities to recover money, even if your injuries get worse in the future and require additional surgeries. In a settlement, the insurance company will require you to sign a release that extinguishes all your claims, including past, present and future damages. The insurance company will not pay for medical bills, lost wages or for pain and suffering after the claim is settled or decided in court. A settlement or verdict means the claim is resolved completely.
Child injuries – looking into the future
Some of the hardest future injuries to prove are child injuries. Some diagnostic tools and tests that are available for adults are not always available for children. Thankfully, children are more likely to recover than adults, but when a child suffers a serious injury, the cognitive impact and future impairment can be difficult to quantify. Sadly, when a child is injured, he may appear to be fully recovered only to suffer significant setbacks in future years. It is critical to get sound advice from expert physicians before deciding the true impact of a child’s injury.
Statute of limitations – tolling for minors
In many cases, it is not possible to wait to resolve an injury settlement until all the treatment related to the underlying injury is complete. Some injuries never resolve and must be dealt with over a lifetime. Personal injury lawsuits must be filed within the statute of limitations which sets a deadline to bring a claim. Statutes of limitations vary from state to state and depend on the type of claim.
Thankfully, most states toll the statute of limitations for children until they turn 18 years old. For example, in Ohio, the statute of limitations for a standard negligence claim is two years – claims related to dog bites and car crashes must be filed within two years from the date of the incident. If, however, a 14-year-old is seriously injured by a dog, the two-year statute of limitations does not start until he turns 18, giving him until he is 20 years old before he is barred from bringing a claim.
Experienced lawyers with a strong track record
Please speak with an injury lawyer who has a successful track record with similar cases before speaking with any insurance company agents. It is vital that your settlement and jury verdict includes an amount that accounts for the future if it is more likely than not that you will suffer future damage. Speculative future damages are not allowed. Injury attorneys who work closely with medical experts will help provide the proof necessary to show likely future losses – the type of medical treatment, the medical bills associated with necessary treatment related to the injury, whether there will be missed work as a result of that treatment, and increased future pain and suffering stemming from the original injury. At Rittgers Rittgers & Nakajima we routinely seek to obtain justice for children who have been seriously injured at no fault of their own.