Settling Personal Injury Claims For Minors

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In order to protect the interests of children whom have sustained injuries as a result of the negligence of someone else (i.e. personal injury claim), there are legal protections afforded to these injured children. Depending on what state you live in there are specific guidelines for court approval of personal injury settlements, which may include the appointment of legal guardians where the gross settlement amount (i.e. before legal fees, legal costs & expenses, outstanding medical bills) exceed a certain threshold and when the net recovery to the injured child exceeds certain dollar amounts.

Processing personal injury claims for persons under the age of eighteen (18) present unique procedural requirements for the attorney on the case. First and foremost, the attorney represents the minor through the minor’s legal guardian. This could be one parent or both parents. It must be remembered that minors cannot file personal injury claims through the court system or settle said claims, before or after the suit, on their own.

When court approval is not necessary

If the gross settlement amount of a personal injury claim is $15,000.00 or less and the settlement is reached before a lawsuit has been filed on behalf of the injured child, then the personal injury claim can usually be settled without court approval by the parents or natural guardians of the injured child.

If the gross settlement amount of a personal injury claim is in excess of $15,000.00 but the net proceeds to the injured child are less than $15,000.00 and the settlement is reached before a lawsuit has been filed on behalf of the injured child, then the personal injury claim can usually be settled without court approval by the parents or natural guardians of the injured child.

When court approval is necessary

If a personal injury lawsuit has been filed on behalf of the injured child regardless of the amount of the gross settlement, then court approval is necessary.

If a personal injury lawsuit is filed on behalf of the injured child and if the gross settlement is greater than $15,000.00 but the net recovery to the injured child is less than $15,000.00, then court approval is necessary for the settlement but a minor guardianship will not be required.

If a personal injury lawsuit is filed on behalf of the injured child and if the gross settlement is greater than $15,000.00 and the net recovery to the injured person is greater than $15,000.00, then court approval is necessary for the settlement and a minor guardianship will also be required so a guardian can be appointed to oversee the settlement funds. The court may also require a guardian ad litem (usually an independent attorney without any affiliation to the accident injury claim) to review the terms of the settlement and attest that the settlement is in the best interests of the injured child.

Usually the legal guardian and the guardian of the property are the same person or persons. This individual is responsible for collecting the amount of the minor’s net judgment and executing all necessary releases. Note that the court will retain sole jurisdiction in the determination of the allocation and use of the minor’s settlement. The court will most likely insist that the money be put into a conservative account until the minor reaches the age of majority. Until that time, whenever the legal guardian wishes to use the minor’s funds, he or she must obtain court approval. The Courts’ decision will always be based on the best interests of the minor.

As you can see, resolving personal injury claims of children are very complex and complicated since they have the added requirement of court approval in certain instances outlined more particularly above. It is for this reason that the parent or guardian of a child injured through no fault of their own should seek out an experienced and ethical personal injury attorney to assist in the processing of the child’s personal injury claim since most people do not have the necessary knowledge or experience to deal with a minor’s personal injury claim against an insurance company or with the issues that follow a child’s personal injury settlement.