Personal injury claims regarding individuals under the age of 18 are much more complex than the typical cases. There are laws in place designed to protect minors in certain situations. They require attorneys to be very vigilant in pursuing such claims and to take the necessary procedural steps in order to reach a settlement for an injured minor because if the statutes and probate rules are not closely followed, the settlement can be voided. Of course every case is unique in its circumstances, but the laws remain consistent throughout. The parent or guardian, who then can seek representation from an attorney to reach a settlement on their behalf, must be the one to pursue the personal injury case of anyone under the age of 18.
In no instance can the adult guardian use a minor’s settlement proceeds for the guardian’s own benefit, nor can they use the proceeds to pay for the usual support obligations of the minor. This is the main reason for the necessary court approval in most cases. The Florida Statute rules as follows:
- When the gross amount of the settlement exceeds $15,000, court approval is required.
- For court approval, a Petition for Approval must be filed that contains the details and facts of the case, the issues of liability, the monetary amount of damages, and the settlement amount sought, as well as attorney’s fees and costs.
- A judge’s jurisdiction is determined based on the best interest of the minor, not the parent/guardian.
- If the net amount (the money leftover after the medical and legal expenses are paid) exceeds $15,000, a formal guardianship must be used to safeguard the money, in which the funds will be placed in a restricted bank account or annuity, only to be accessed later with a court order.
Even if the case is a circumstance that does not require court approval, some insurance companies will usually require court approval anyway before disbursing the funds on the child’s behalf. Contact our office at (954) 755-7803 or at this link if we can be of help!