Car wrecks involving children are happening every day. They and their parents incur medical bills, and they often have serious, painful, and permanent injuries.
They may require substantial future medical care. In other words, their injuries may be the same as an adult, but the legal case for the injury of a child is much different.
Definition Of A Child
Under Florida law, a child is anyone under the age of 18 who has never been married or legally emancipated. This is common in most states. A person under the age of 18 cannot legally enter into a contract and cannot file a lawsuit in their own name. Most of the time a parent or other legal guardian must be responsible for their affairs, including their injury claims.
If a child is injured and the claim cannot be settled without filing suit, the suit must be filed by a parent, a legal guardian, or a court-appointed guardian if the circumstances require it. Similarly, the settlement documents for a claim must be signed by an adult or guardian.
Settling A Case For A Child
There are very specific rules for settling a personal injury or car wrecks involving children. The rules were enacted for the protection of the child and his or her financial interests. There is a sliding scale of rules that depend on the amount of the settlement.
If A Case Is Settled For Under $15,000 There Are No Special Rules And Court Approval Is Not Required.
The parent or guardian can sign the release presented by the insurance company, and there are generally no restrictions on the use of the net settlement funds.
While court approval is not required for such smaller settlements, the parent or guardian can petition the court for approval. If the claim goes to court, the settlement must be approved by the trial court judge.
For Larger Settlements, The Rules Are Different.
1. If the total, not net amount, of the settlement, exceeds $15,000, there must be a case filed in the probate division of the county where the minor lives.
2. For cases where the gross settlement is greater than $15,000 but less than $50,000, the court may appoint a guardian to handle the funds for the child. Usually, the guardian is the parent or legal guardian of the minor. These are fairly routine proceedings.
3. If the gross amount of the settlement is $50,000 or greater, then the court must appoint guardian ad litem to review the settlement. These guardians are often local lawyers who are familiar with such issues. They have an obligation to review the settlement and give guidance to the court about whether it is reasonable.
In all cases, the primary interest is that of the child, not the parents. The purpose of the rules is to make sure the funds are properly used/invested for the benefit of the child and preserved until the minor becomes an adult. The court has very broad powers to preserve the interest of the child.
While the cost of the court approval process can be substantial, insurance companies or settling parties often agree to pay the costs and fees associated with this. You should always attempt to get an agreement for this in order to preserve as much as possible for the child.
Wrongful Death Claims
If a child is killed in a car crash, a wrongful death claim may be filed. In Florida, such claims are governed by the Florida Wrongful Death statute, this is a very complicated area of the law and requires the expertise of an experienced trial lawyer.
These claims must be brought a court-appointed personal representation. In such cases, the parents of a minor child can recover from mental pain and suffering. They can also recover for medical expenses and other monetary costs associated with the injury and treatment of the injuries that led to death.
Statute Of Limitations
The statute of limitations for the death of a minor child is 2 years from the date of the death, in other words, the surviving parties much settle the claim or file suit within 2 years of the death, or it will be barred.
While the normal statute of limitations for injuries is 4 years from the date of the incident, there are special rules that extend the statute for minors.
If a child is a minor at the time of the incident, they may wait until they turn 18 to file suit. However, the absolute limitation to file such a claim is 7 years, regardless of when the child turns 18.
For example: If a child is 10 years old when injured, the case must be filed within 7 years, even though the child does not turn 18 during that period. This is a very complicated area of Florida law and requires the expertise and experience of a civil trial expert.
Joe Zarzaur is a Board Certified Civil Trial Attorney whose firm is dedicated to promoting community safety since 2007. ZARZAUR LAW’S AREAS OF PRACTICE: Serious Personal Injury, Product Defect, Auto Accidents, Cycling Accidents, Motor Vehicle Accidents, Products Liability, Wrongful Death, Community Safety, Boat and Jet Ski Accidents, Slip and Fall Injuries, and more. Licensed in Alabama and Florida.
If you or your child have been the victim of an accident, it’s important that you don’t make any rash decisions. Put yourself in the best possible position to receive the justice you deserve. It is also important to consult with a Board Certified Trial lawyer who has the knowledge and experience to help you. We know accidents can be stressful and want to make the process as easy as possible for you. Call Zarzaur Law, P.A. today at (855) Hire-Joe for a free legal consultation or visit www.zarzaurlaw.com.