Hergott: Children and car crashes

Few parents take the steps necessary to protect their legal rights in a car crash.

Our children are the most precious things in the world to us. Ironically, we put their wellbeing at risk on our roadways with an epidemic of inattentive drivers. And when the roulette wheel falls on “crash,” few parents take the steps necessary to protect their legal rights.

At a rate of approximately 115 crashes per day in the Southern Interior, I don’t like my odds when I leave pull out of my driveway.

I’ve been lucky so far, not yet having been the victim of a crash. When is the other shoe going to drop?

The feeling of vulnerability jumps when my kids are in the car. They’ve long gotten used to my incessant insistence that they pull up head rests and sit properly in their seats.

Many of my clients have described that frantic moment, immediately after impact, of looking back to make sure their child is OK.

But of course they are. Or at least they appear to be.

You want to believe, with every ounce of your being, that your child is going to be perfectly fine.

Their doctor does an examination and reassures you of that outcome.

Children are incredibly resilient. Research has showed that “Children are resilient and rebound quickly from injuries, even serious ones”.

And you’ve learned from countless bumps and bruises, cuts and bee stings: The less attention you pay to the owie, the better.

An ICBC adjuster tells you that you have nothing to worry about with your child’s claim because the two year “limitation period” clock doesn’t start ticking until their 19th birthday.

That gives lots and lots of time for any long term problems, if any, to be identified and dealt with.

You can shift your focus to recovering from your own crash injuries and relax about your child’s wellbeing.

Right?

Absolutely. If your child’s symptoms 100 per cent completely resolve.

And never return.

Statistically, that’s a likely outcome. Most people enjoy a 100 per cent complete recovery from car crash injuries.

But your child might be one of the unlucky minority who never fully recover. If so, they won’t have a hope of achieving fair compensation for their injuries unless proactive and ongoing steps are taken to preserve evidence of those injuries.

With nobody taking an interest in their complaints, they stop mentioning their symptoms.

You know the classic response to “How are you doing?”: “Can’t complain. I’ve tried, but no one listens.”

And symptoms of stiffness and soreness quickly become “background noise” for children. It becomes their new reality.

It won’t be for another number of years before they face the real world of work, which often requires hours of sustained postures sitting at a computer, or holding awkward positions.

That’s when the background noise might come to the foreground and have a serious impact on your child’s future.

But by then it’s too late to draw a connection between those now chronic symptoms and the car crash that occurred years before.

ICBC will point to the fall from a bicycle or horse, trampoline incident, sports injury and all the various other times your child took a tumble over those years. “That’s when your child hurt their neck.”

Your child, asked when their neck symptoms first started, will say “as long ago as I can remember.” A young adult won’t be able to credibly articulate their symptom history extending back five, 10 or 15 years.

Don’t listen to the ICBC adjuster. You cannot relax. Work needs to be done right away, and on an ongoing basis, to “preserve the evidence.”

Have your child carefully examined as soon as possible after a crash by a hands on treater who has experience with children such as a pediatric physiotherapist and/or a chiropractor with a particular child focus.

Be vigilant, and keep a journal of your own observations of any changes at all in your child’s behaviour, mood and activity levels.

Carefully listen to your child when symptoms are mentioned. Include those mentions in your journal.

Our medical system is a reactive, not proactive one. Give a full recovery the very best opportunity by proactively pursuing care for your child if unhealthy tissue is identified in the physical examination, or if symptoms linger.

Any ongoing symptoms, however minor or infrequently surfacing, must be monitored, journaled and of course treated.

As falls from bicycles or horses, trampoline incidents and sports injuries occur, details of the incident and any symptoms arising must be journaled as well.

It’s a lot of work!

Great care must be taken, though, not to cause your child to become focused on their symptoms. We do, very much, want those symptoms to become background noise and have as little conscious impact on their lives as possible.

I can include only so much advice in a column. Please take the time to have a free, initial consultation with a personal injury lawyer who can advise you about these and other important matters about your child’s legal rights, including a limitation period deadline that the ICBC adjuster will never tell you about.

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