Handling cases involving special needs children involves numerous unique issues. The cases require the lawyer to fully understand all aspects of the child’s condition, needs, and familial interactions. Tragically, these cases are routinely undervalued by insurance companies, defense attorneys, and even the plaintiff’s bar. For the lawyer that appropriately handles these cases, however, the true value of the cases are higher than those involving the typical population. As many individuals with special needs literally cannot make their voice be heard, it is critical that the lawyer has the time, financial resources, and determination to obtain full justice for their client.
Individuals with special needs are a significant part of our population. According to the United States Census survey data, more than 41 million Americans, or 15% of the population age 5 and older, have some type of disability. The most rapidly expanding special needs population is autism, which is at epidemic proportions. A generation ago the rate of autism was one in 10,000; by the 1990s it was 1 in 500; and by 2002 it was 1 in 69 children. Given these numbers, every personal injury attorney will encounter a case involving an individual with special needs.
The issues are not just limited to individuals with special needs who are injured. To the extent that a parent or caregiver of a person with special needs is injured, their activities of daily living may be affected in a very profound way. If a mother of a child wheelchair bound with cerebral palsy injures her back, how is she to transfer her child in and out of bed, the wheelchair, or a motor vehicle? If a mother of a tantrum-prone child with autism injures her shoulder, how is she to pick him up when he throws himself to the ground at a restaurant? How does it affect her physically when he smacks her shoulder? Equally important, and more important to the parent, is how the injury will affect the child. If due to the injury, the parent cannot take the child to therapy, how is the child affected? Are there therapy notes, behavioral logs, or other objectives, written data which can show the changes in the child? What type of guilt is the parent feeling as a result? As you can see, there is a myriad of ways that a special needs child may affect a personal injury case. A lawyer who does not fully investigate and prove each of these unique damages has failed to do his or her job.
Recently, the Firm handled a wrongful death case involving an elderly woman who was struck by a car. She was survived by three sons who were in their late 60’s and 70’s. The youngest son had special needs and witnessed the accident. Due to his condition, he was unable to process the accident and accompanying grief appropriately. It had an extraordinary affect on him. The Firm obtained a multi-million dollar settlement which allowed him to obtain all of the services he needed to restart his life and continue living.
At Lesser, Lesser, Landy & Smith, PLLC, we have handled many cases in which a person with special needs has been injured, as well as countless cases in which the injured party is the parent of a child with special needs. We devote the time that is needed to be the voice for these clients and to obtain full justice on their behalf.