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Bagen Law Blog

Settling Personal Injury Claims For Minors

Posted by Steven A. Bagen

Jan 30, 2014 9:32:00 AM

Doctor examining knee of injured minorUnfortunately minors are just as likely to be victims to injuries caused by negligence as adults. Luckily, like adults, minors also have recourse. While they may not be able to bring their own claim, their guardian may bring a personal injury claim on their behalf if a minor is involved in an accident. 

Florida has a specific set of guidelines for the court to approve any personal injury settlements, which can include appointment by legal guardians when the gross settlement is more than a certain dollar amount, as well as when the net recovery to the child injured is more than a specified dollar amount. 

When Court Approval Is Not Needed

If the settlement amount for the claim is less than $15,000 and the parties are able to reach the settlement before the lawsuit has been filed on the child’s behalf, a personal injury claim can normally be settled without having to get approval from the court. The parents or guardians of the child can make the decision on whether to accept or not.

If the settlement is more than $15,000, but the net proceeds that the child is going to receive will be less than $15,000 and they reach the settlement before any lawsuit was filed on the child’s behalf, personal injury claims can often be settled without approval from the court by the guardians or parents deciding to accept the settlement on behalf of the injured child.

When Court Approval Is Needed

If a personal injury suit was filed on the injured child’s behalf regardless of what amount the gross settlement is going to be, court approval will be required. If the suit is for more than $15,000, but the net recovery is less than that $15,000, court approval will be required for the settlement, but minor guardianship won’t be required.

When the lawsuit is filed on the injured child’s behalf and the gross settlement is going to be more than $15,000, as well as the net recovery being more than $15,000, the court will need to approve the settlement and a guardianship is also going to be required for overseeing how the settlement funds are going to be used.

Courts can also require a guardian ad litem, which is usually an independent attorney that doesn’t have a current affiliation with the claim. This guardian will go through the settlement terms and verify that the settlement is in the injured child’s best interest. This whole process can be very confusing for many parents who are trying to deal with their child’s injuries, but a personal injury defense attorney Gainesville can help explain it all for you.

Most of the time, the guardian for the property and the legal guardian are the same individual. This person is going to be responsible for collecting the judgment and executing any necessary releases. The court is going to retain jurisdiction for determining how to allocate and use the settlement for the minor.

Most of the time, the court will insist that the money is placed into a conservator or guardianship account until they reach majority age. Until that time, the legal guardian will have to obtain approval from the court to be able to use any of the minor’s funds. The court is always going to base its decision upon what is in the best interest of the child.

Some of the other frequently asked questions we get regarding accident cases involving minors include:

  1. Who is able to bring a lawsuit on the child's behalf? Minor children cannot bring their own negligence suits. However, the minor's parents or legal guardians are able to file a claim on behalf of the injured child.
  2. What kind of damages can be recovered in a child injury case? Generally the same kind of damages can be recovered as in adult negligence claims. This includes things like medical expenses, pain and suffering, and/or lost earning potential. In some cases, parents or guardians may also be able to recover damages for their injuries.
  3. What is the deadline for filing a personal injury claim for a minor? In Florida, the statute of limitations for filing a negligence claim is typically four years from the date of the accident. However, that can change when minors are involved. Florida law delays the time limit for filing the lawsuit if the child doesn’t have a parent or guardian, if the parent or guardian’s interests are adverse to the child’s, or if the parent or guardian is incapacitated and unable to sue on the child’s behalf. The rules are also different if the claim involves medical malpractice. An experienced personal injury lawyer will be able to explain the various time limits. If you miss the deadline then you won’t be able to recover compensation for your child’s injuries, so make sure you contact an attorney as soon as possible.

Resolving a personal injury claim involving a child can be incredibly complex, especially since they have the added requirement of needing the court’s approval, as outlined above. It is because of the confusion that the parent or guardian should enlist the help of a personal injury defense attorney to make sure everything is processed appropriately.

To help you understand all of the specifics, a personal injury attorney can help explain everything to you and make sure there isn’t any confusion in what you can expect during a personal injury case for a minor in Florida, as well as help you get the compensation to which you are entitled.

The last thing you want is to be taken advantage of by insurance companies because of inadequate information. By enlisting a qualified Florida personal injury lawyer, like the team at Steven A. Bagen & Associates, you can get the answers you need right when you need them the most. 

Contact Steven Bagen Gainesville Ocala personal injury lawyer

Topics: personal injury cases for minors