Personal Injury Claims for Minors
A minor is defined as someone who has not yet reached the age of majority and does not have the legal rights of an adult. In most states, the age at which a person acquires all of the rights and responsibilities of an adult is when they turn 18. Until so, a minor may not be responsible for their actions; this includes the capacity to enter into a contract which is enforceable by the other party.
If a minor should suffer from injuries as a result of another persons’ negligence, legal protection would insure the defense of their interests. This is the case of personal injury claim: for an underage person, there are specific guidelines; the settlement is not as straightforward as in cases involving adults. It will be particular depending on the gross settlement amount, should it surpass the general legal and medical costs. It is also important to note that in these specific cases, the attorney will represent the minor through their legal guardian. As stated before, this has to do with the fact that an underage person cannot sign contracts.
There is a set limit of $15,000, which determines the different options for a settlement. Since minors can’t enter contracts, they don’t get the advantage of the adults who simply signs an agreement. Therefore, the process in these cases would be to first get a court approval. However, there are times when this is not necessary: if the gross settlement amount is below such limit, and the settlement is reached before filing a lawsuit –in behalf of the minor–, then it can be directly resolved through a settlement between the person responsible and the parents or guardian of the underage person in question. Given that the process can be long and expensive, insurance companies may try to evade it, by asking for a settlement that contains the guardians’ indemnification for future claims.
Another case would be if the sum of the claim should exceed the $15,000 line, but the gross amount the minor should obtain is still bellow it (before the lawsuit is filed on behalf of the injured child): it could be settle outside the courtroom, again by the parents or guardian. Whenever a lawsuit is filed in the name of the claimant, despite of the sum, then the court approval is mandatory. However, in this case and if the claim is over $15,000: whenever the net gain of the minor is below that amount, then the court approval is required, but not the guardianship of the claimant.
Finally, when both the settlement sum and the net recovery of the minor surpass the $15,000 limit, it will be necessary both the court approval, as well as the minor guardianship. This is due to the fact that a person under the age of 18 has not acquired their full rights and responsibilities; therefore, a guardian must be in charge of these funds. This guardian can be the child’s parent, not necessarily a separate person.
Once the minor reaches the age of majority, she or he will have access to their funds and will also gain rights to use them. A guardian doesn’t have the rights over the minor’s fund; to make use of them, they must obtain a court approval.