Bakersfield Child Injury Lawyer

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Robert May

Founding Partner

 
  • 25 + Years of Experience

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    Our firm maintains an impressive 99% win rate, even while accepting difficult cases other law firms have turned away.

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It is one of the worst scenarios a parent can imagine: Someone else’s carelessness or recklessness injured your child. The injuries are serious and perhaps even likely to produce permanent disabilities that will affect your child for the rest of their lives.

You have other pressing questions, such as how to pay for the medical expenses associated with the injury and the enormous impacts your child has faced or will likely face on their quality of life.

In Bakersfield, there are many things for children to do. Unfortunately, there are many ways for them to get hurt, as well. If your child has suffered an injury in Bakersfield, you should be aware that they can’t file a claim until they reach 18 years old.

However, you have two options for obtaining compensation:

  • You can file a claim against the insurance policy of the at-fault party within two years of the injury.
  • Your child can file a claim after they have reached the age of 18. Children who become injured as minors but wish to file a personal injury claim must do so by their 20th birthday to meet the two-year statute of limitations that extends until they reach the age of majority.

Read on for more information about childhood injuries and to obtain answers to general questions about seeking compensation for a child’s injury. For answers to the questions you have about your specific case, The May Firm will gladly provide a free case evaluation with a Bakersfield child injury lawyer who can let you know more about how we can assist you with your claim.

Known for the home-like atmosphere at our firm and a commitment to helping clients even with the most difficult cases, our award-winning attorneys have garnered tens of millions of dollars worth of settlements and court awards. While we cannot guarantee a result, we can promise to work hard and apply our experience to every case we take. Contact The May Firm today to see what we can do for you.

Community Involvement

At The May Firm we strive to be involved and connected to our local community. For example, this past holiday season we had bicycle and Christmas tree giveaway’s dedicated for individuals in our community. Our goal is to be a positive force for good in the local community and give back in some small measure to those we can serve. We receive satisfaction and joy from serving our clients and will continue to look for ways to be of assistance to the community as a whole. We receive positive energy from the community when we are involved.

We have listed a few of the local organizations we support and look forward to growing our outreach in the future. If you have any suggestions for ways we can be of service or support, please reach out to us.

  • Memorial Golf Classic
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  • CASA

child injury attorney in bakersfield

How Child Injuries Occur in Bakersfield

Motor vehicle accidents are the biggest cause of childhood deaths from injury in Bakersfield, where more than a dozen children are killed in traffic-related accidents each year. For every one of these deaths, dozens of more children suffer serious or even permanent injuries. A large portion of the traffic-related accidents resulting in the deaths or injuries of children involve children who were pedestrians or bicyclists at the time of the accident.

Homicide is the second-leading cause of childhood deaths from injury in Bakersfield, resulting in around six deaths a year. Hundreds of more children are injured in Bakersfield by intentional acts such as child abuse or bullying.

Other common causes of childhood injuries that can lead to disabilities or even death include:

  • Falls: Falling is one of the most common causes of injuries occurring in very young children who can be unsteady on their feet and unaware of the laws of gravity. Falls can occur from a property owner or possessor’s failure to regularly inspect their property to look for hazards that could cause injury to guests or to promptly mitigate known hazards. Falls can also occur due to a lack of adult supervision on playgrounds, swimming pools, or other places where children require supervision.
  • Drowning: Drowning is the leading cause of death in California for children under 5, resulting in the deaths of more than 50 children a year. Swimming pools, including those at private residences, and public or commercial pools are the most common places for these drownings to occur. Not all drownings result in death, however. Many children survive drowning but come away with anoxic brain injuries, which occur from oxygen for long enough that brain cells begin to die. Brain damage begins one to two minutes later. Within five minutes without oxygen, severe brain damage often occurs. Within 10 minutes, brain death occurs.
  • Birth injuries: A baby may suffer mild injuries during childbirth, some injuries are not only avoidable but the result of medical malpractice, which involves a health care provider failing to take actions that a reasonable and similarly positioned provider would take to protect the health and well-being of the patient. Birth injuries resulting from malpractice include stem from the failure to perform a cesarean section when medically indicated; failing to diagnose health conditions in the baby’s mother during pregnancy that, if not promptly treated, could result in injury or death; errors occurring during the performance of a cesarean section; improper use of birthing tools including forceps or vacuum suction.
  • Burns: Burns are another common cause of childhood injuries and death, occurring from many sources, such as hot liquid or steam, hot surfaces, fire or flame, or even contact with caustic chemicals. Sixty-five percent of children under five who have suffered burn injuries were scalded by hot liquid or steam. Twenty percent of child burn injuries occurring before age five happen from contact with a hot surface.
  • Becoming trapped: Children have a natural curiosity that, when combined with their lack of general awareness of hazards, can result in an increased risk of injury. Many children in Bakersfield are injured each year from becoming trapped between two objects or trapped inside an object such as a disabled vehicle or appliance on someone’s property.
  • Poisoning from the child consuming a hazardous substance. Some of the most common sources of child injuries caused by poisoning include prescription medications; cleaning substances; button batteries which—when swallowed—can lodge in the esophagus where moisture from the child’s saliva can cause toxic chemicals to be released from the battery inside their body; over-the-counter pain medications that can cause liver or kidney damage when taken in high doses; taking a high dose of vitamins, such as Vitamin A, which can be toxic to a child; antihistamines, commonly used to treat allergies or nasal congestion, which can result in hallucinations and affect blood pressure in children when taken in high doses.
  • Dog bites: Roughly every 75 seconds in the U.S., a dog bites someone. Children are the most common victims of dog bites, accounting for more than half of the injuries that result in medical care. Children most likely to be bitten by a dog are five to nine, and dog bite injuries in children most often occur to the face and neck. While most dog bites occur within the child’s home or the home of a family friend and involve a dog the child knows, dog bites can also involve dogs that roam outside, off-leash, in yards, parks, or schoolyards.

The Injuries Children Suffer in Bakersfield

Contrary to popular belief, children do not necessarily recover better or more quickly from injuries than adults do. Instead, it often takes years to determine the true impact of the injuries as the child continues to grow and develop.

Some of the common types of injuries to be incurred by children in Bakersfield include:

  • Catastrophic injuries to the brain or spinal cord. These two organs make up the body’s central nervous system, and the brain relies on the spinal cord to act as a messenger, delivering messages to and from other parts of the body as it controls the body’s functions and involuntary responses. Either of these injuries has a high likelihood of resulting in permanent disabilities that can impede your child’s ability to succeed in school, obtain gainful employment as adults, or attend to personal care tasks independently. Motor vehicle accidents and falls cause most traumatic brain injuries and spinal cord injuries, while anoxic or hypoxic brain injuries result from oxygen deprivation such as drowning or suffocation.
  • Burns, which can cause significant scarring or disfigurement and infection complications.
  • Broken bones. While most broken bones heal within several months, some complications can arise, including a bone infection in a penetrating injury, chronic pain, or even the lost range of motion in the affected limb.
  • Internal injuries. Internal injuries can result in a dangerous amount of blood loss, known as a hemorrhage, as well as loss of function or even death of the organ involved. While motor vehicle accidents, including accidents that injure a child on a bicycle or while walking, are the most common cause of this type of injury, internal injuries can also result from falls or the child being trapped or squeezed in a tight space.
  • Soft tissue injuries, including damage to the muscles, joints, or tendons from a fall or a motor vehicle accident.

How Settlements Work in Child Injury Claims

Children in California are not permitted to file lawsuits until they reach the age of majority. If you decide to file a claim on your child’s behalf and wind up accepting a settlement offer from the at-fault party’s insurance adjuster, that the settlement will not go into effect without court review and the appointment of a guardian ad litem (an individual who ensures that the settlement contract is in the child’s best interests).

The act of settling a minor’s claim is called the compromise of a minor’s claim. Those who have a right to file a compromise of a minor’s claim include either parent if both parents live with the minor, the parent having legal custody of the child, or the guardian ad litem appointed by the court to ensure that its actions are in the minor’s best interest.

Among the other provisions of the settlement, settlement agreements made on behalf of a minor child generally must include provisions for an account to deposit the compensation.

Options include a blocked account for the money until the child turns 18, and only a court order can grant early access to the funds; a special needs trust which can provide funds for a permanently injured child without risking the compensation they can receive as an adult from Social Security Disability; or a more flexible settlement trust to hold the money until the child reaches the age of majority.

Very rarely are settlement funds distributed directly to the child’s guardian or caretaker, and this is generally only an option if the settlement amount is less than $20,000.

The May Firm Can Seek Compensation for Child Injuries

Few things in life are as emotionally distressing to a parent as seeing their child become injured. The legal team at The May Firm wants you to know that help is available for you and your child, even if you do not have the money to afford to hire an attorney. We work off a contingent-fee billing method that allows you to withhold payment for our services until there has been a positive outcome to your claim. Read on for the answers to general questions about the process of obtaining compensation for child injuries in Bakersfield, and contact us for a free case evaluation to learn more about this process.

Frequently Asked Questions About Bakersfield Child Injury Claims

Suffering a personal injury because of someone else’s carelessness or recklessness is a very distressing event for most people. Even more distressing is having your child injured by negligence. Here are answers to questions that we commonly receive from our Bakersfield clients about child injury claims.

Yes, filing a personal injury claim on your child’s behalf within the two-year statute of limitations for personal injury claims is one of the ways of addressing compensation for child injuries in California. However, you should be aware that to obtain an out-of-court settlement for your child’s claim, the court must approve the settlement and appoint a guardian ad litem to ensure that the settlement is in the child’s best interests.

Compensation for a child’s injury usually comes in two parts:

  • The court awards the first part of the compensation to the child’s parents or legal guardians as payment for medical expenses incurred for treating the injury or related complications.
  • The court awards the second part of the compensation to the child for pain and suffering and other quality-of-life impacts they incurred from the injury. This portion of the settlement or award generally goes in a protected account or trust for when the child reaches the age of majority.

For your child to file a personal injury claim, they must wait until they reach the age of majority, which is 18. At that time, they will usually have two years to file their claim. In other words, if your child wishes to file a personal injury claim, they must do so by their 20th birthday as the two-year statute of limitations is tolled until the child is legally of age to file the claim.

Entering into a settlement agreement on behalf of your child is called the compromise of a minor’s claim. Those who may participate in this process on behalf of the child include both parents if they each reside with the child; the child’s custodial parent or legal guardian; or a guardian ad litem whom the court appointed to determine the best interests of the child.

This process involves submitting a petition to the court for approval of the settlement.

The petition must include the following information:

  • The child’s personal information, including name, date of birth, and gender.
  • Relationship of the petitioner to the child.
  • Description of the claim.
  • Description of the incident that resulted in the child becoming injured.
  • A detailed description of the injuries the child sustained, including copies of medical reports and other documents used to prove the claim.
  • Acknowledgment by the petitioner that the settlement is final and binding, meaning that you will not go back to the at-fault party’s insurance carrier at a later time to seek additional compensation for the same injuries.
  • A description of the settlement amount and all terms of the settlement.
  • Disclosure of medical expenses that will be paid through the compensation.
  • Disclosure of attorney’s costs that will be paid through the settlement.
  • Disclosure of how the proceeds will be handled. Generally, proceeds obtained for a child injury claim must be placed in a protected account or trust until the child is 18.
  • A statement that the settlement is fair, reasonable, and represents the child’s best interest.
  • Signatures of the attorneys, parties, and petitioner.

Where you file this petition depends on whether you filed a lawsuit before settling. You didn’t file a lawsuit, you must file your petition in the county where the minor resides. However, if you filed a lawsuit, you must file the petition at the same courthouse.

Any child injury is cause for concern. However, the most common cause of child injuries in Bakersfield is traffic-related accidents, including accidents where the child was injured as a passenger in a motor vehicle and those involving injuries to a child as a pedestrian or bicyclist.

Drivers in California are generally required to operate their motor vehicles safely and legally to protect the safety and property of others. Because children do not have the developmental ability to accurately judge a gap in traffic or understand that it is not safe to chase a ball or other toy into the road, drivers owe children a special duty of care, especially near parks or schools, and to slow down in anticipation of children in these areas who could run out into the road.

Homicide is the second-most common cause of child injury fatalities in Bakersfield, behind only motor vehicles in the frequency of fatal injuries. Homicides involving children are most often the result of child abuse, though injuries are a more common outcome than death. The Kern County Child Protective Services investigates thousands of claims of physical abuse each year.

If child abuse at a daycare injured your child, you can file a claim against the daycare provider or even the company that employs the provider.

Unfortunately, contrary to popular belief, children do not recover better from traumatic brain injuries than adults. While it may seem initially that a child has recovered from the injury, it is often impossible to know the long-term impacts of the injury in a child until that child’s brain has reached maturity. At every new phase of development, new deficits can emerge that—without knowing that a brain injury had occurred—the defense could blame on learning disabilities or mental health issues.

The brain tends to develop from the bottom up and the back forward, meaning the frontal lobe—responsible for functions such as reasoning, judgment, and the ability to control behaviors and impulses—is the last part of the brain to develop. If a very young child suffers a frontal lobe injury, it could be years before the effects of the injury fully emerge.

Children who suffer from traumatic brain injuries often require special accommodations at school to assist them in working around the injury. These accommodations can include paying a paraprofessional who can help the child stay organized and provide instructional assistance; the extra time to complete assignments or finish tests; shorter school days or fewer days of attendance at school for the child to cope with fatigue, which is commonly experienced after a brain injury; and the option to take oral tests or tests written in multiple-choice form rather than in essay form; the ability to record lessons to play back later and refresh the child’s memory about the lesson.

Because of the permanent nature of brain damage, deficits incurred by your child’s injury will likely accompany them into adulthood and prevent the child from earning an income or completing personal care tasks independently. Your attorney will help you determine an appropriate level of compensation that can take care of your child’s future needs.

No. The IRS does not consider money obtained in compensation for physical injuries as income and doesn’t tax it. However, if your claim goes to court and you receive an award that includes punitive damages, the IRS can tax that portion of the award.

You should know that if you deducted medical expenses from your child’s injuries on your taxes and the settlement you receive on behalf of your child includes compensation for medical expenses, you must repay the IRS.

No, you cannot.

Having an attorney can be absolutely critical to your ability to recover the maximum compensation for your child. Lawyers spend years obtaining the education and training needed to provide the most effective services to their clients. This education and training take so long because the legal systems in California and the U.S. require complex formalities that the average person would not know and would find very difficult to learn in the limited time provided before settlement negotiations take place or the case goes to trial.

Filing any claim without an attorney means that you will not have the advantage of the attorney’s experience with the process. This lack of experience will not permit you to make errors or take shortcuts.

You will, instead, need to negotiate with insurance adjusters and attorneys, understand the evidence to prove your claim and how to obtain it, understand how to depose witnesses and what information to seek through depositions, how to file the claim and where, and many more overwhelming steps. You must do all of this when you have an injured child at home to care for. The burden is usually even greater for child injury cases, as the settlement must be approved by the court and found to be in the child’s best interest.

If the cost of hiring an attorney makes you reluctant to speak with one and causes you to wonder about filing a claim without one, rest assured that we can answer your legal questions and provide more information at no cost or obligation to you.

Additionally, if we decide to continue working together on your claim, you will not have to pay for your attorney’s services until there has been a positive outcome to your claim.Let a child injury lawyer from The May Firm help you obtain compensation after someone else’s careless, reckless, or intentional acts injured your child. For your free case evaluation, contact us online or by calling (661) 244-9712.

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