When a settlement is offered to an adult plaintiff, said adult makes the decision to accept or reject the offer and generally receives payment upon signing the settlement and waiver of future claims. However, the process is not as simple when the settlement involves a minor. Reasonably, the courts have an interest in protecting minors’ best interests, and so require an adult or appointed guardian to approve the settlement.
If your child or a minor whom you have guardianship of is a plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit, Fort Myers guardianship attorney Jeffrey Attia can guide you through the court approval procedures. We work closely with your personal injury attorney to facilitate the process and protect your rights. Our early involvement in the case can help you avoid delays or settlement rejection.
When is Court Approval Required?
The courts must approve settlements with minor plaintiffs involving more than $15,000 or if a lawsuit is filed on the minor’s behalf. Settlement approval is not required for damages falling below the $15,000 that are negotiated before the plaintiff files a suit. Insurance companies, nonetheless, often insist that all settlements involving minors receive court approval. This layer of protection avoids future assertions that the child was not treated fairly.
The Process of Settlement Approval
To initiate the process of settlement approval, a parent or legal guardian files a petition with the court. The judge then reviews the facts of the case, liability of various parties, damages the minor sustained, the amount of compensation, attorneys’ fees and costs agreed to in the settlement and determines whether the terms of the settlement are in the best interest of the minor.
For settlements exceeding $15,000, the judge orders the funds be placed in a special bank account or annuity and appoints a parent or legal guardian to manage the account. The funds can only be accessed through a court order. The court will generally allow funds to be used for necessities, but only once the guardian’s obligations to support the minor have been satisfied. In other words, the court would not usually allow the funds to be used in lieu of the guardian’s financial obligation, but would typically allow the funds to supplement that obligation when necessary.
Appointment of Guardian Ad Litem
The court is required to appoint a guardian ad litem in claims involving minors that exceed $50,000. For claims between $15,000 and $50,000, the court has the discretion to appoint a guardian ad litem based upon the individual circumstances of the case. The guardian ad litem is a trained attorney who assesses the settlement and reports to the judge whether it is in the minor’s best interests.
The appointment of a guardian ad litem is not an indictment on the parents or other guardians. In most cases, the court does not question the parents’ or guardians’ judgment or their desire to put the minor’s needs first. The requirement acts to safeguard the minor’s interests.
Learn More About Settlement Approval Requirements From a Dedicated Fort Myers Guardianship Attorney
If your child is a plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit, there are specific legal regulations you must abide by. Learn more about the requirements for approving a minor’s settlement from Fort Myers guardianship attorney Jeffrey Attia. Schedule a consultation today at 239.919.2318 or contact us online.