Texas Court of Appeals Says Cause of Action for Medical Expenses Incurred While a Minor Belonged to Parents, Rather than Child

When someone brings a lawsuit seeking compensation for injuries suffered in an east Texas automobile accident, he or she may ask for reimbursement for past medical expenses, along with compensation for medical costs that may reasonably be expected to be incurred in the future. However, even in cases in which liability is clear, disputes may arise regarding the amount of money to which the plaintiff is entitled for his or her medical expenses, especially if the plaintiff was a minor at the time of the accident and is not joined in the lawsuit by his or her parents.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case (Court of Appeals for the First District of Texas; No. 01-16-00463-CV), the plaintiff was a young man who sought to recover compensation for injuries he suffered in a car accident that occurred when he was still a minor. The trial court directed a verdict on the plaintiff’s claim for past medical expenses, ruling that the defendant driver could not be held liable for the medical expenses incurred while the plaintiff was still a minor.

The jury later found that the plaintiff and the defendant were each 50% at fault in the accident. The trial court entered judgment upon the verdict, incorporating its directed verdict on the medical expense issue into the final judgment. The plaintiff appealed.

The Court of Appeals’ Opinion

The appellate court affirmed the lower court’s decision. On appeal, the plaintiff argued that the trial court had committed a reversible error in granting the defendant a directed verdict on the issue of medical expenses incurred before the plaintiff was of legal age and in not submitting a jury question on the issue of ratification of the financial obligations for the medical expenses by the plaintiff after he turned 18.

Noting a distinction between a minor’s right to file suit for injuries caused by the negligence of others and parents’ right to recover damages for injuries to their child, the court noted that the cause of action to recover medical expenses incurred during a child’s minority belongs to the parent, rather than the child. This is because it is the parents, rather than the child, who are ultimately responsible for the child’s medical expenses. Absent facts (such as emancipation) that would render the minor personally liable for such expenses, he or she has no cause of action against the tortfeasor for the costs of his or her medical care. Since the plaintiff acknowledged that the agreement between his parents and the providers of his medical care did not obligate him for payment, the court of appeals found no error in the lower court’s ruling in favor of the defendant on this issue.

Contact a Helpful East Texas Car Accident Attorney

Getting the compensation that you deserve following an east Texas auto accident can be challenging. At Earl Drott Law, we have over 34 years of experience handling personal injury cases, and we work very hard to make sure each and every client gets the compensation they are due. For an appointment to discuss your Tyler or Smith County accident case, call us at 903-531-9300 today. There is no charge for the consultation, so you have no reason to put off this important call!

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