Children suffer most of the same types of injuries as adults. However, they suffer other kinds of harm unique only to children It probably goes without saying that children are vulnerable. That vulnerability makes them the target of all kinds of abuse by adults in their lives. Simply put, there are many out there that prey on the vulnerability of children, some obvious and some not so obvious.
Collins & Collins, P.C. is in the business of holding institutions, the government, businesses, insurance companies and corporations of every kind accountable for the harm they cause individuals. We protect the vulnerable against these often time large and powerful institutions. We get especially motivated when the person harmed is a child and the institution attempts to escape responsibility.
Abuse of Children
Child abuse comes in many forms and from many sources. Depending on the circumstances, there may be personal injury claims for the child suffering abuse. In cases involving governmental entities, there may be civil rights claims under the New Mexico Civil Rights Act and §1983 Civil Rights law. For children with disabilities, there may also be federal claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act. These cases can be complex, and many can be time-sensitive with deadlines that must not be missed. If a child has been harmed by abuse, no matter what the source, it is very important to seek legal guidance right away to meet deadlines, ensure the preservation of evidence (non-destruction of evidence) by the defendant(s), and to begin collecting evidence.
There are a number of institutions that are trusted with the care and well-being of children. Sadly, those institutions often come up short. Sometimes, this is simply the result of negligence or inattention. Other times, the actions of the institutions are more deliberate with knowledge that the child will be put at risk of harm.
The institutions referred to here are the New Mexico Children Youth and Families Department, schools, school districts, youth organizations, athletic organizations and religious organizations to name just a few. Abuse and neglect come in countless forms. The abuse can be physical and/or emotional in nature. It can be obvious in many cases such as severe physical, sexual and emotional abuse or neglect. Other times, it is much more subtle to the point that society seems to tolerate it such as when schools and school districts deliberately and knowingly deny children proper education.
Any kind of child abuse can cause severe life-long consequences for the child’s physical and emotional health. This leads to many negative outcomes. Child victims of abuse later suffer many severe mental health issues such as PTSD depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, eating disorders and substance abuse. Not surprisingly, this leads to a significantly higher high school dropout rate. It also leads to much higher levels of incarceration due much to the fact that child victims of abuse and neglect are more likely to engage in high risk behaviors. The most common of the high risk behaviors are the early use and abuse of drugs and alcohol which often occurs in the form of self-medication to deal with the abuse suffered. It’s a very sad cycle and very cruelly is a major contributor to the “school to prison pipeline”.
When an institution trusted with the care and well-being of a child either directly harms the child or puts the child in a position where harm is likely to occur, the institution should be held accountable. An institution that harms a child should not be allowed to simply wash its hands of the life-long harm that has it has caused, leaving the child to cope with the aftermath for the remainder of the child’s life.
Abuse by Adults
A common misperception is that strangers are typically the perpetrators of child sexual abuse. In fact, strangers account for only 10% of cases of child sexual abuse. Friends and acquaintances of the family account for 60% of the cases. This would include coaches, tutors, religious confidants, counselors and therapists to name just a few. Family members account for the remaining 30%.
Far too often, the adults that harm children are affiliated with the institutions above. People that harm children often have a history of harming children. Sometimes a simple background check would find the history of abuse. Shockingly, there are far too many institutions, organizations and businesses that do not bother with a background check. In many cases, the abuse has been reported to the institutions, organizations and businesses by parents, the child, other children and adults in the child’s life. Yet, the institutions, organizations and businesses take no action to protect the child. In short, the institution knows of risks of abuse or even actual abuse and allows it to continue. In those cases, both the individual and the institution should be held accountable.
Parental abuse, like any other child abuse, can come in a variety of forms including physical, emotional and even financial. When parents abuse children physically or emotionally, institutions such as CYFD step in or should step in to protect the child. Financial abuse of children is not something most people think about. However, the potential for financial abuse by parents is significant in the case of children that receive a settlement for personal injuries of any kind including abuse and neglect. Due to the significant risk of parents seizing and using settlement funds for their own needs and desires, the New Mexico courts require that a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) be appointed in every case where a child/minor receives a financial settlement for harm caused to the child.
Alysan Boothe Collins has been appointed as a GAL hundreds of times by both state and federal judges. This requires the lawyers and judges in the case to agree on her appointment. Alysan is committed to protecting the rights of children. She is trusted by the courts and the attorneys in these cases to do just that.
Personal Injuries to Children
Just like anyone else, children can be injured by the negligence of others. This too comes in numerous forms from typical auto accidents to medical negligence to school playground and daycare accidents, to violations of civil rights by governmental entities or their agents to name just a few.
The process for establishing claims and filing a lawsuit on behalf of a child is for the most part identical to personal injury claims for adults. There are unique deadlines for claims for children. There are also very strict court rules and laws to ensure that the money goes to the child and only to the child.
Collins & Collins, P.C. has extensive experience dealing with injuries to children. Alysan Boothe Collins in particular has dealt with hundreds of child injury cases both as the plaintiff’s attorney bringing the lawsuits for children and as Guardian Ad Litem to make sure any settlement is fair to the child and that the proceeds of any settlement or verdict go into an appropriate trust or other such mechanism to protect and preserve the proceeds for the child’s use once they are adults.
Contact Collins & Collins, P.C.
Collins & Collins, P.C. is passionate about helping children that are victims of institutional abuse. We know first-hand from our work with prisoners the horrible outcomes for child victims of abuse and neglect. The cycle needs to end. Unfortunately, the powers that be speak only one language and that is money. Nothing will ever change until the costs to the institutions that knowingly allow harm to children is so great that they can’t afford not to change.
Call us at (505) 242-5958 for a free review of your case. A child needs a voice. Together, you and Collins & Collins, P.C. will provide that voice.