My child was hurt in an accident and I don't know what to do first/next.
We can dispense with the introduction; your child was hurt and you have no idea what to do. You may even have mixed feelings about what you should do, which may have brought you here. Often a sense of guilt accompanies an injury to a child. We understand. Our job is to help get you some answers.
First, be sure that the child is getting the medical attention/treatment that they need. This should go without saying, but we'll say it anyway.
Second, keep a journal. This may sound strange, but regardless of whether you ultimately decide to take action due to your child's injury, you should keep a journal of her care, treatment, condition, etc. This may prove to be very helpful to you, in any number of ways, as time goes on.
What do you write in your journal? Everything you feel should be written. Medical appointments, prescriptions, surgeries, how the child is responding, what she is saying (if anything), how the family is holding up. Questions that come into your mind among the chaos of dealing with the situation.
Think this is a waste of time? Think again. First, it will help you keep your thoughts in order, and will help you not to forget things as they come in; Second, it will give you a contemporaneous record of the event, which will become even more of a blur as time goes on. Third, it will help you clear your mind, and this is important. Putting pen to paper is freeing, and in this case, you need to be able to think clearly and make good decisions.
Third, preserve or set aside anything that needs to be preserved. So, if your child was injured by a product or kitchen device, for example, set it aside somewhere safe and do not dispose of it. Keep any packaging, receipts, etc. Take photos of the product or device, and either print them or email them to yourself and create a folder where they can be saved.
If your child was injured in a car accident, or at someone else's house, things may be different. If you have any photos, keep them. If your neighbor or other third party has the device, animal or vehicle that caused your child's injury, they need to be told to keep or document it as well. One of the first things we do when we represent the family of an injured child is send what's known as a “preservation letter” to anyone who may have the product, device, vehicle, animal in their possession. If you have not done so keep this in mind (or contact us).
The ability to identify the cause of the accident will be of utmost importance as time goes on and you decide what action to take on behalf of your child.
Fourth, if you think your child's injuries may have been the fault of someone else contact a lawyer. Doing so does not require you to file a lawsuit on your child's behalf – it only ensures that you are adequately considering all options that might be available to the child, and are doing so in a timeframe that ensures that the child's interests are protected.
Fifth, remember, you are your child's primary caregiver. Your job is to protect them at all costs. This means that if your child's life has been changed through no fault of their own, your role as their guardian makes it incumbent on you to protect them – now and into the future.
Parents often feel a sense of guilt in looking to legal options following an injury to a child. Don't. The United States civil justice system holds people and companies accountable when their negligence (or failure to act reasonably) causes harm. Doing this – holding companies and people accountable – is the only real way to effect change and try to prevent the same thing from happening to another family. Remember that as you move forward.
Finally, if you decide to hire a lawyer, do so carefully. This is a critical event in your child's life, and the decisions you make now may have a very significant impact on your child's future. Ask yourself questions about the type of firm that you want handling your case and helping your family.
Representing the family of an injured child is not the same as writing a will, handling the purchase of a home, or fixing a traffic ticket. At least not to us. Lawyers who help families should get to know the family, and should be there for them every step of the way. And when we say lawyers, we mean the actual lawyer that you hire. Not an assistant, or team of paralegals, or call center operator. You should be able to speak to or email your lawyer (somewhat promptly), and when you do it should be clear that they know exactly what is going on at any given moment.
We do not take every case that comes to us. On the contrary we are very selective about the cases that we accept. This may mean that we have very few cases at any given time depending upon their complexity. This is fine with us. It means that if you hire us, you will get us. You will know that we are not dumping your case on to another lawyer. And that if you call us, we will be able to tell you exactly what is happening at any given minute.
You would never hire a brain surgeon if you thought that an assistant was going to perform the surgery. This is how we feel about complex, catastrophic, litigation. It requires experience, thoughtfulness and attention. If these are important to you (and we think they should be), be very careful about who you hire.