You would do anything to keep your children safe, but you know you can’t lock them away forever to protect them. There comes a point when you have to trust that other people will be responsible and not endanger your children with their reckless actions. A perfect example of a time when you must rely on strangers to watch out for your children is on the road. When drivers engage in negligent behaviors such as speeding or intoxication, your children are at risk—whether they are buckled in a car seat or walking to school. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 20 percent of children under the age of 15 who are killed in traffic accidents each year are pedestrians. This means that these young lives were tragically cut short in crosswalks, parking lots, driveways, and school zones by negligent drivers. Our Indianapolis car accident attorney explains further.
How Children Are Injured and Killed by Negligent Drivers in Indiana
Despite your own efforts—and safety measures taken by schools and communities—children are killed or injured by cars every day in the U.S. Crosswalks, school safety zones, and even crossing guards are no match for reckless drivers. Negligent driver actions that often result in children being hit include:
- Careless backing up. Children are small and hard to see, but that’s no excuse for drivers not checking the entire area behind them before backing up. These accidents tragically happen in driveways and residential streets, with parents sometimes running over their own kids. They also happen in school parking lots and pick-up areas when drivers are in a hurry.
- Distraction. When a driver is texting, changing the radio station, programming the GPS, talking to passengers in the back seat, or even just daydreaming, they are much more likely to run through a stop sign or crosswalk or fail to see a child darting into the street after a ball than if they are paying full attention to their surroundings.
- Intoxication. Drunk and drugged drivers are less attentive, their reaction times are slowed, and they are likely to speed, run red lights, and break other traffic laws. If they are driving through a neighborhood or school zone, they are putting children at risk. Many hit-and-run drivers are intoxicated and may not even realize they’ve hit something—particularly if it is a small child.
- Speeding. School crossing zones are only active when children are coming and going from school, so it is not surprising that drivers who are unfamiliar with the area and who are speeding will not expect them and could fly right through without looking for children. Speeders are also unlikely to see children in neighborhoods and around playgrounds who might have stepped into the street unaware of cars.
- Not adjusting for poor visibility. In the early morning, when children are likely to be walking or riding their bikes to school, it can still be too dark for drivers to see clearly. Likewise, when it is raining, drivers can have a harder time seeing pedestrians. In these situations, it is the responsibility of the driver to slow down and take more precautions.
Drivers have a duty to look out for pedestrians—even those who might not be where they are supposed to be. Children are especially vulnerable and cannot be expected to be responsible for their own safety. If a driver hits a child—no matter what the circumstances are—it is likely that they can be held responsible for the harm they cause.
But How Does a Child File an Injury Claim?
Clearly, a child cannot file an injury claim on their own, but a parent or guardian can file on their behalf. If a child is injured by a negligent driver, there are a few things the parent can do immediately after the accident to protect a future claim for damages.
- Get medical attention. If your child is unconscious, bleeding, or appears to have a broken bone, call an ambulance or take them to an emergency room immediately. If your child does not appear to be seriously injured, schedule a doctor’s appointment as soon as possible for a full evaluation. These medical records will be key when demanding compensation for losses.
- Call the police. You or someone else at the scene should call 911 and report the accident to the police. Nine times out of ten, the driver will likely be issued a ticket for a violation such as excessive speed, failure to yield, DUI, reckless driving, or ignoring a crossing guard or safety zone. The police report and citation will help your case for damages.
- Talk to witnesses. Gather the names of people who saw the accident happen. If you are busy helping your child, ask a bystander to collect names and phone numbers. Witnesses will be important to prove driver negligence.
- Take pictures. Ask someone nearby to take photos with their cell phone of the scene of the accident, including signs indicating a crossing zone and the car that hit your child. If appropriate, you should also take photos of your child’s injuries before they are treated.
- Talk to a lawyer. If your child required emergency medical care after being hit by a negligent driver, call an Indiana personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Your child might need extensive medical treatment and have a lifetime of needs as a result of the accident. An experienced attorney can get your child the compensation they will need to recover as fully as possible.
It is important to understand that filing an injury claim is not the same as filing a lawsuit. You should not be worried about the possibility that your child will have to take the stand in court or anything like that. In most cases, your attorney can negotiate a fair settlement with the insurance company without inconveniencing you or your child at all. If it is necessary to file a lawsuit, the evidence that has been gathered will be used to prove to a judge that your child is owed more than has been offered by the insurance company. Your child will not have to testify.