As parents, we want to keep our children safe. Nevertheless, countless children are injured yearly in big and small accidents. Some are hurt on playgrounds or in school, while others are injured in motor vehicle crashes riding along with their families.
When an adult is injured, they can negotiate a personal injury settlement with the person at fault for the accident. Law Offices of Samer Habbas & Associates, PC has handled many of these cases. However, when children are injured, there are unique legal wrinkles. Children cannot form contracts, which is all a settlement is. Further, a child cannot start a lawsuit in court until they read. For these reasons, obtaining compensation for an injured child is a complex process.
Give us a call. The California personal injury lawyers at Law Offices of Samer Habbas & Associates, PC have helped many families with injured children. We know how to get your child the compensation they need.
Why Can’t My Child Negotiate A Settlement?
Only those aged 18 or older can sign contracts unless the child is emancipated. For this reason, your child can’t “settle” a claim.
Can I Negotiate A Settlement Agreement For My Child?
Possibly. California law allows either parent to “compromise” a minor’s claim for damages if the parents live together. If parents are separated, the parent having custody and control can negotiate a settlement. However, the settlement only becomes valid once a court has approved it.
Who Is The Guardian Ad Litem?
This is a person appointed by the court to represent the child’s best interests. Unless removed by the court, the person serves in this capacity until your child reaches age 18. The court often appoints a Guardian Ad Litem, especially if a lawsuit has already been filed.
Can A Parent Be The Guardian Ad Litem?
Yes. This is pretty standard. Either parent can fulfill the role. In other situations, a close family friend will serve as the Guardian Ad Litem.
Can My Child Choose The Guardian Ad Litem?
If your child is 14, they can choose who serves in this role.
Does A Court Approve The Settlement?
Usually—if the settlement amount is more than $5,000, this is a key difference between settlements involving children and adults. The court supervises the settlement process when a child is involved.
You will submit a Minor’s Compromise to the court to request approval. This petition will contain all the agreed terms of the settlement. Some key information will include:
- Medical reports on the injuries
- Description of the accident and your child’s injuries
- Amount of the settlement
- Whether the settlement is paid in installments
- Directions on how to manage your child’s settlement proceeds
A judge will probably hold a hearing. The purpose is to convince the judge that the settlement provides adequate compensation for your child’s injuries.
What Compensation Can My Child Receive?
Your child can request damages for certain economic and non-economic losses depending on the accident and injuries.
Economic Loss—Medical Bills
Your child’s medical expenses include past, present, and future care. You could be reimbursed from the settlement if you paid for your child’s medical care.
Economic Loss—Lost Earning Capacity
Serious injuries could keep your child from working, such as a permanent disability. Other serious injuries will limit their ability to perform certain jobs. Our legal team can help calculate whether your child’s future earnings will be diminished by the accident.
Non-Economic Loss—Pain And Suffering
Bodily injuries cause physical pain, emotional distress, depression, and suffering. We usually request pain and suffering compensation for our clients to make up for what they have endured.
In certain situations, we can request punitive damages to punish the defendant for egregious conduct. For example, someone who intentionally hurt your child might be forced to pay punitive damages.
Do Parents Get The Money?
No. Again, the settlement belongs to your child. Any settlement funds will need to be put in trust for your child’s benefit when they reach adulthood.
In our experience, settlement proceeds are either deposited into a blocked account or invested in an annuity.
Usually, this means depositing them in an FDIC-insured bank or a trust company. The Guardian Ad Litem typically selects the account. This is a low-risk way of saving money until your child is an adult.
Alternatively, the Guardian might purchase a tax-free annuity. This is essentially an investment contract, and the money is paid out according to the terms of the annuity.
When Does My Child Get Access To Their Settlement?
It depends on how the proceeds were invested. If put in a blocked account, the Guardian unblocks it when your child reaches 18. They gain immediate access to the funds. However, if the proceeds were used to purchase an annuity, then payment is according to the terms of the annuity. Some annuities provide for releasing some funds over a staggered period, for example, some money at 18, 21, and 25, etc.
Can My Child Sue If They Don’t Settle?
Children can bring their own lawsuits when they reach adulthood. There are problems with that approach, though. For example, 10-15 years could pass by the time your child reaches 18. Evidence can disappear, and witnesses can forget key details, period. It might be hard to win a court case if you wait so long to sue.
Also, your child will not receive any compensation until they sue. If your child has high medical expenses, you will need to fully pay for them for years until your child is an adult.
In our experience, a settlement is usually preferred. Our California personal injury attorneys understand the process.
Parents Need Our Legal Experience
No parent should try to obtain a settlement for their child without legal help. A judge might reject any settlement you negotiate, which means wasted effort—and no money for your child.
Please contact Law Offices of Samer Habbas & Associates, PC today to protect your family by calling 888-848-5084. Our California personal injury lawyers can walk you through the process and make things easy.
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