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Accidents Involving Minors

Accidents involving minors have unique needs and legal requirements. If your child has been injured in an accident, the most important decision you can make to protect his or her rights is hiring the right law firm.

Does the court have to approve settlements in accidents involving minors?

Yes. Minors have protections under the law. Any settlement obtained on their behalf requires a minor’s compromise or approval by the court.

Because minors cannot sign contracts, when a minor receives a settlement, there must be a guardian ad litem appointed and approved. by a court to protect the minor’s interests.  (Ad litem is a Latin phrase meaning “for the suit” or “for the proceeding”.)

The guardian petitions to the court to approve any settlement obtained on behalf of the minor child. This is known as a minor’s compromise.

A court/judge must then approve any settlement received, how the money will be handled (i.e., blocked bank account, annuity, etc.), and how it will be distributed in the future. The guardian may sign the settlement on the minor’s behalf.

Who can be a guardian for my child’s lawsuit?

A typical guardian for a minor would be one of the parents.  However, there are circumstances where another individual can be approved by the court to be the minor child’s Guardian Ad Litem. A petition must be filed with the court to do so.

When am I unable to file an injury claim on behalf of my minor child?

Not every parent can file a claim on behalf of their child. A personal injury lawyer can review your case to determine if you qualify for seeking compensation for their damages. Generally speaking, you cannot move forward with a claim if any of the following are true:

  •  Your child is an adult and is mentally competent. (They will have to file the claim on their own.)
  •  Your child is a minor but you are not a legally recognized parent of the child. (The legal guardian or parent will have to file the claim.)
  •  Your child is an adult but is not mentally competent, however, they have a spouse who is mentally competent. (The spouse will have to file the claim.)

My Child Was at Fault in an Accident. Am I Liable?

Suppose a ten-year-old boy sees another boy riding his bicycle and thinks it would be “funny” to push him over. So the ten-year-old pushes the bicyclist over and that boy suffers serious injuries. Are the parents liable for the actions of their ten-year-old son?

In most states, parents are liable only for the intentional wrongful acts of their children, and there is usually a dollar amount on this, such as $10,000 or $15,000. Now suppose that instead of deliberately hurting the bicyclist, the boy runs into the path in front of him, causing the bicyclist to lose his or her balance, fall off the bike, and sustain injuries.

Are the parents liable for the carelessness (negligence) of their child? In most states, the answer to this question is no. While the parents are liable up to a certain amount of money for the deliberate acts of their minor children, they are not usually liable for the negligent acts of their children that cause injury. One main exception to this rule is that, if the child is a teenager driving the family car on a family errand or with the express or implied consent of the parents (“permissive user”), the parents are liable for all injuries and property damage caused by their child’s negligence should he or she be a fault and get into an accident.

To protect themselves and their property from being the subject of a civil lawsuit, the parents should have the child who drives added to their automobile insurance policy. And we recommend at a minimum that you have 100/300 policy limits, which means that if a person is injured he or she can collect up to $100,000, with a total payout per accident of $300,000 regardless of how many people are injured. We also strongly recommend that you buy an “umbrella policy” that covers your automobile and personal liability for up to $1 million. The cost of an umbrella policy is usually only a couple of hundred dollars, but if tragedy strikes you will be glad you have it, as it could save you from financial ruin. It is best to talk to your insurance broker or agent about your concerns as they are the experts in providing you the type of coverage that would protect you.

If your child has been injured in an accident, call TorkLaw today for a free, no-obligation consultation.

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