Alaska Child Injury Lawyer Mark Choate

This video features Mark Choate, a Criminal Law attorney based in Alaska.

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Video Transcript:

Mark Choate:

Kids have the same issues as adults, but have little ability to protect themselves, so they're more vulnerable.

Rob Rosenthal:

So if you have a child who's injured because of someone else's negligence, how do you get help? And is it different from an adult injury? Well, we're gonna find out right now because that's what we're going to ask the lawyer. Hi again everybody, I'm Rob Rosenthal with AskTheLawyers.com. My guest is Alaska attorney Mark Choate. I wanna remind you right off the top, if you wanna ask more questions about your specific situation, just go to AskTheLawyers.com, click the button up in the top right-hand corner of the screen that says Ask a Lawyer, and you can ask away right there. Mark, it's good to see you again as always. Thank you for helping us out today.

Mark Choate:

Great to see you this morning.

Rob Rosenthal:

So let's just talk about child injuries and how those are different, first of all, are these cases similar... Have you handled cases like this before with childhood injuries?

Mark Choate:

I've represented hundreds of kids over the years who've been injured, unfortunately a number of them have been killed, and I represented the estates and their families, so I have a lot of familiarity with childhood injuries, and they are different than adult injuries.

Rob Rosenthal:

First of all, what are some of the more common injuries that you've seen the children suffer that might be cause for somebody to call you?

Mark Choate:

I would say that the ones that sort of stand out are injuries when kids are hit on their bicycles, hit in crosswalks going to school, hit because they're just smaller. People aren't looking out for them, they may be in a panic, not have always the best judgment because they're kids. And so you see those sorts of injuries. You also see kids just injured like adults in the sense that they're in car crashes or they have those types of injuries, and then we see injuries that are specific to children, which is where adults take advantage of them. Sexual molestation, some bullying, either by adult or by classmates, things like that, but all those areas, kids have the same issues as adults, but have little ability to protect themselves, so they're more vulnerable.

Rob Rosenthal:

You mentioned that it is different than, say, an adult injury case, what are some of the differences? What do we need to know about that?

Mark Choate:

Well, the biggest issue with kids is always that they're somewhat dependent upon their parents or guardian to bring the claim, so there are a lot of kids who are injured and the parents just don't ever think about, "Well, gee, what are gonna be the long-term consequences of this injury, and do I need a lawyer? Will my child need services in the future?" So you get times where there's a brain injury, they are injured and they fall on playground equipment or they are hurt in a sport at school, and the natural tendency for everyone is to wanna get better and to believe things we better, it's especially the case with kids. We don't want to think that our children have a long-term injury, so there's a little bit of denial that can occur and a lot of frustration because no one ever helps a parent figure this out. They wander looking for some resources and people will say, "Well, your Billy's acting differently, or Judy's acting differently," but it's probably just because of you, this was a stressful event. Well, they might have a brain injury or they might have a trauma from a psychological trauma. And as we we think about our lives and we think about the things that stay with us from our childhoods. It's not the broken bones, it's the broken hearts, it's a time where we felt the betrayed.

Rob Rosenthal:

Is it also the case, Mark, where just a child's inability to maybe be able to express or communicate the way an adult would, does that make it more difficult too?

Mark Choate:

It's a big issue. It's a big issue because especially infants and babies are not verbal. Another thing that happens is that children will shut out trauma in the sense that they will kind of push it back so it doesn't overwhelm them, so you can have some your own psychological protections and blocking. Kids aren't as good at communicators and frequently there, especially when you've been harmed by somebody in power, they'll be "Well, don't believe that child. That child is not trustworthy, that child has other motives, and people often are... The nature of people in power who abused children is that they're very good at directing attention away from themselves to anybody else, so those are all issues that kids have.

Rob Rosenthal:

Let's talk about specifically in Alaska, if a minor child does recover some sort of damages, some sort of recovery. What happens with that money? How is that handled there?

Mark Choate:

I think in every state that I'm aware of, the child does just not get the money, all court rules now require that money that is recovered for a minor, and that's somebody under 18 or somebody perhaps with an ongoing disability to where they've got a guardian or a conservator, meaning somebody managing financial affairs, those monies have to be generally put into some kind of account and they can only be spent in certain ways. Frequently the parents will manage that account and the account will require that there be... You can use it for medical expenses, or you can use it for travel for medical expenses, or you can use it for education, but there'll be limits on it because there's a history of, unfortunately parents sometimes for bad motives, spending their kids' money, and other times because they're not good at money management, but other times we're gonna lose the house if we don't take this money, none of which are acceptable. It's the kid's money, and it has to be preserved and protected. So that happens every place I know, and often, nowadays, the children in Washington, I have some cases down there on any minor settlement, the child will be appointed their own attorney to assure that, just for purposes of the management of the money, that that money is going to be managed correctly.

Rob Rosenthal:

What's your advice to parents when they're trying to pick the right attorney to help them with the childhood injury case. What's your advice? How do they choose the right lawyer, Mark?

Mark Choate:

It's tough. You know, it's a hard one. The tendency, I think, is to go to the firm, which you hear the most about because they spend a lot of money on advertising or on a big internet presence. Those firms can often not be good because they're... I call them mills, they kind of take a lot of cases in and they settle them quickly and cheaply. Childhood injuries by their nature, because they often, you know, children are young, a permanent injury for a child can last 70-80 years, so you need to have a lawyers that know what they're doing, and so I think it requires doing some research, I wouldn't necessarily call friends, I would look for the Trial Lawyers Association in any state that you're in, every state has a trial lawyers group, and they'll have some way to access the members, and generally speaking, lawyers that are involved in those groups who make it the profession to bring cases for injured people and participate in these sorts of things at the state and national level, which advance and push for the rights of injured people and their children, those are lawyers that are gonna be good for you. There's always differences, but you wanna avoid the mills.

Rob Rosenthal:

Mark, as always, very helpful information. It's always interesting to talk to you, thank you so much for making some time to answer our questions. 

Mark Choate:

Thank you. 

That's gonna do it for this episode of Ask the Lawyer. My guest has been Alaska attorney Mark Choate. I wanna remind you, if you'd like to ask Mark some questions about your specific situation, it's easy to do, hit up AskTheLawyers.com, there's a button in the upper right hand corner that says Ask a Lawyer, and you can start right there. It doesn't cost you anything to ask. Thanks for watching, everybody. I'm Rob Rosenthal with AskTheLawyers.

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