Is a settlement on behalf of a minor in the best interests of the child? This is important question that must be asked in every child injury case. Who gets to decide or make the determination if the settlement is in the best interests of the child? In Florida, the answer to this question is . . . “It depends.” A personal injury settlement on behalf of a minor child must receive Court approval if the settlement is over a certain amount of money. Furthermore, in some cases, a Guardian Ad Litem is appointed in order to review the settlement on behalf of the minor child and issue a report to the court on the matter. Finally if the net proceeds from the minor settlement exceed $15,000 then the proceeds from the minor settlement must be put into a restricted account or placed in an annuity that pays the child injury victim a sum certain over time. Here are some of the people who may be involved with a minor settlement:
The Child. Of course, the child is the most important person in the process. All persons involved with a settlement on behalf of a minor child must focus on the best interests.
The Child Injury Attorney. The Florida Child injury attorney represents the interests of the minor child. It is the duty of the child injury attorney to make sure that the child’s interests are well represented and that any settlements obtained on the minor child are in the best interests of the child. When necessary, the child injury lawyer will obtain court approval and follow other safeguards as to the minor settlement. It is important that the attorney selected by the parent or guardian to represent the child has experience and knowledge in the area child injury so that the safeguards are followed.
The Parent or Guardian. Due to the age of minority and lack of ability to pursue a legal case or claim on his or her own, a parent or guardian must be involved in the pursuit of an injury claim or a lawsuit. While a parent or guardian must be involved, the case is brought on the child’s behalf.
The Judge. When court approval is required, the Judge will review the settlement documents, medical records, medical bills, and other documents and information to determine if the settlement is fair, reasonable, and in the best interest of the minor child.
The Guardian Ad Litem. The Guardian Ad Litem is appointed by the Judge in certain cases. Typically, the Guardian Ad Litem is a local attorney familiar with child injury cases and settlements. The Guardian Ad Litem has the responsibility to advocate on behalf of the minor child and make sure that the child’s interests and rights are protected and honored.
The Liability Insurance Company. Most cases are settled with the payment of liability insurance payments including but not limited to automobile insurance, homeowners insurance, and / or commercial liability insurance. Most adjusters are familiar with the basic requirements for the proper settlement of a minor child’s injury claim. Because of this, the proper documents and Court approval will be required by the adjuster before the funds will be released or paid by the liability insurance company.
The Annuity Company / Insurance Company. In some cases, the case is settled with the payment of an Annuity which is a one time payment in the future or a stream of payments in the future. The Annuity typically must be a guaranteed amount in order to obtain Court approval of the same.
A child injury case can be complicated for parents and guardians depending on the facts and circumstances of text. Because there are many laws and safeguards, it is often times in the best interests of the child for the parent or guardian to hiring attorney to represent the child in the personal injury case. Child injury cases are typically handled on a contingency basis. In other words, if there no recovery – there will be no attorney fees. Until the settlement funds are paid, there will be no financial obligation on the part of a parent or guardian up front on these cases and the attorney will wait to get paid from the settlement collected.
There are two books that can assist a parent trying to deal with the aftermath of a child injury. While the books are not a substitute for legal representation, the books do contain some basic information that will help educate a parent / guardian about child injury cases and claims. The ABCs of Child Injury – Legal Rights of the Injured Child – What Every Parent Should Know has chapters on Automobile Accidents, Day Car Center Injuries, Damages / Compensation, and other topcis. You can get this book for free at The ABCs of Child Injury. Another book – Florida Day Care Center Injuries – Building Blocks of Knowledge for Parents – has chapters on Day Care Center Cases, Outdoor Facilities / Playgrounds, Indoor Facilities, Record Keeping, Emergency Procedures and other topics. This book will be available for free in February 2012 through the website for Wood, Atter & Wolf – Florida Personal Injury Attorneys.