Resolving A Child’s Injury Case May Need Court Approval
As a general rule, personal injury law works the same when kids are injured as it does when adults get injured. But there are certain procedural hurdles that exist when a child is injured. The law and the courts seek to protect children, and safeguard their property for them. As such, the law requires measures be taken to protect the minor child.
When Can a Settlement be Made Without Court Approval?
Because a child cannot legally or competently represent himself, the parent will file the lawsuit on behalf of the child. If the lawsuit is settled before a lawsuit is filed, and the amount of the settlement is less than $15,000, the parent can simply agree to settle the case on behalf of the child—no court intervention is needed.
When Court Approval is Needed
Court approval is generally needed, even if the child actually gets less than $15,000—for example, if the settlement is $16,000, but there are $2,000 in attorneys fees and costs, netting the child $14,000.
But if the child actually nets more than $15,000—that is, more than $15,000 is going into the minor’s “pocket,” not only is court permission to settle needed, but a guardianship must be established by the court. A Guardian ad Litem may need to be appointed to review the case and ensure that the settlement is fair to the minor.
In some cases, someone who is not a guardian, but who is neutral to the child (such as another personal injury lawyer) can be appointed to act as the guardian of the minor’s funds).
Whoever acts as the guardian, will get paid, usually from the proceeds of the settlement. The amount paid is usually nominal, and will depend on the difficulty ro complexity of the case and the amount of the settlement that is being held in trust.
In most cases, the settlement money must be placed in a trust account and held until the child is 18. In certain cases, the family can ask the court to release settlement funds, where the money is needed to care for or support the minor.
When to Settle?
Because of these legal hurdles, many families will need to think about settling where the value approaches $15,000. If the insurance company offers, say, $13,000, it may be worth it to settle before a lawsuit is filed, if the value of the claim is, say, $16,000-$2000. The extra money may be eaten up by the guardian’s fees, not to mention the time it will take for the minor to ever access the funds.
Of course, where the insurance company is offering a significantly low dollar amount, and the case’s value far eclipses $15,000, a family may opt to file a lawsuit, knowing that the extra time and effort are well worth it.
Schedule a consultation today with our Tampa personal injury attorneys if you sustain any kind of injury in an accident. Our team at Barbas, Nunez, Sanders, Butler & Hovsepian can help you recover from injuries that your child may have sustained in an accident.