Seeing your child injured after an accident is a difficult thing to go through, whether it is a temporary or permanent injury. Dealing with legal issues can also be difficult without the help of an experienced attorney at your side. As a parent, you make legal decisions on behalf of your child, but you may not know the best way to handle a personal injury settlement for minors. The right personal injury lawyer can guide you through the process and ensure your child's rights are fully protected.
At Sands Law, we can help you navigate the legal considerations you need to handle your child's personal injury settlement.
The Unique Aspects of Personal Injury Settlements Involving Minors
There are many unique considerations when dealing with a child injury settlement. You need an experienced trial attorney who can help with your accident claim and the entire legal process.
1. Who Can Bring a Personal Injury Claim for a Minor?
A minor is a person under the age of 18. In most situations, a minor cannot file a lawsuit independently. Instead, someone must bring the personal injury claim on behalf of the minor.
A child's parent is typically entitled to file a claim for their child. The parent must have legal custody of the child to file on the minor's behalf. This means that the parent makes the legal decisions for the child, hires the attorney, and engages in the legal system on behalf of their minor child.
A legal guardian may also file a personal injury claim for the child. A legal guardian is a person with legal custody over the child, usually as granted by a court. A legal guardian may be a friend, relative, or another caretaker for the child with the legal right to file a claim for the minor child.
2. What Damages Can Be Recovered in a Personal Injury Settlement for a Minor?
An injured child is entitled to the same types of compensation as any other injured party, even though they cannot file the claim themselves. A child is entitled to financial compensation from the negligent party who caused their harm. This monetary compensation can help the child recover from their injuries and help alleviate the financial burden caused by the accident.
Your child's personal injury settlement may include damages such as:
- Past and future medical treatment expenses
- Costs of rehabilitation services
- Lost wages and earning capacity for both parent and child
- Property damages related to the accident
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Loss of companionship and support
- Punitive damages, in limited cases
3. How Is a Personal Injury Settlement for a Minor Approved by the Court?
Under Rhode Island law, if the plaintiff in a lawsuit is a minor, and the settlement amount exceeds $10,000, the court must approve the settlement. Settlements at or below $10,000 do not require court intervention, and a parent or guardian's decision is binding on the minor. For amounts over $10,000, the settlement is voidable by the minor child unless the payment is approved through the court process.
For these larger settlements, the child (via their legal guardian) and the opposing party must get court approval to issue the settlement check. This is referred to as a "friendly suit" where the court often appoints a guardian ad litem to analyze the settlement amount and terms to determine if it is in the child's best interests. If the guardian ad litem approves, the court may authorize the settlement and make the agreement binding on the minor child. At this point, the case is truly settled.
4. What Happens to the Settlement Proceeds After They Are Approved by the Court?
Once the court approves the settlement amount, the court will issue an order approving the minor settlement agreement. The settlement proceeds can then be distributed. This may occur all at once, where the entire amount of the settlement is transferred at the same time.
In other situations, the parties may agree to structured settlements. A structured settlement creates a payment system over time. The parties determine what the structured settlement will look like, subject to approval by the court if a friendly suit is required.
Once the funds are in your hands, you can allocate the settlement proceeds to benefit your child best. They can help repay expenses, lost income, and other financial hardships you all have faced. They also help compensate you and your child for both the pain and suffering you endured.
5. What Are the Benefits of Hiring an Attorney to Represent a Minor in a Personal Injury Claim?
Personal injury cases are complex and require extensive experience. A personal injury attorney can guide you through this complex process and ensure settlement funds are properly distributed to you and your child. There are many other ways an attorney can help in your accident claim, including the following:
- Investigating the cause of your child's injuries
- Speaking with witnesses who saw the accident occur
- Ensure you file your case by the applicable statute of limitations
- Working with experts to determine your child's medical expenses and other financial compensation
- Negotiating with negligent parties, insurance companies, and other powerful defendants who want to deny you the coverage you deserve
- Compiling critical evidence to prove your case
- Advise you on dos and don'ts after an accident
- Prepare a settlement agreement and handle your friendly suit to approve settlements over $10,000
Working with an attorney is critical to protecting your child's rights. Powerful defendants and insurance companies will take advantage of unrepresented parties to reduce what they owe. A skilled personal injury attorney can prevent this type of abuse.
Hire the Best Personal Injury Attorney To Get the Most Out of Your Settlement
At Sands Law, we want to help you secure the best possible outcomes for your minor child's injury claim. We understand the legal system's complexity and how to negotiate a fair settlement for you and your child. With a proven track record of success, we treat your child's injury case with sensitivity, compassion, and intelligence. We'll negotiate a fair settlement for you or take your case to trial if the defendant refuses to offer appropriate compensation.
Recover more compensation. Save time. Worry less. Leave it to the experts at Sands Law to help you. It’s what we’re here for.