What to know about Settling a Child Injury Case in Florida
Just like anyone, young children are often the victims of personal injuries in Florida. Whether it’s a car accident, a fall, a dog bite, or some other common form of injury, when a child’s injury results in financial compensation, it requires a little extra work to make sure the child’s funds are protected.
At Roman & Roman, P.A., we represent injured people throughout the Tampa Bay area, including Pasco, Hernando, Citrus and Manatee Counties. For help settling a child injury claim, talk to one of our attorneys today. Here are a few of the steps to settling a minor’s case in Florida.
Reach an Agreement
The first step to any settlement is actually obtaining the offer from an insurance company or defendant. To put this in context, consider the case of a typical automobile accident. First, you must get the other driver’s insurance company to agree to pay compensation. Once you have a settlement offer that you believe is fair and reasonable under the circumstances, then comes getting the settlement approved.
Minor Court Approval
Under Florida Revised Statutes, Section 744.387, there is a specific procedure for settling a minor child’s injury claim. There are two general options:
- Less than $15,000. Where the settlement is done out of court without filing a lawsuit, as are many auto accidents and similar injury claims, and where the total value of the settlement is less than $15,000, there is generally no need to open a court proceeding. Instead, a claims limitation form may be used. Likewise, the parent or guardian can simply sign the release and settlement agreement and collect the funds for the child.
- Greater than $15,000. If the total sum of the settlement is over $15,000 or a lawsuit is pending, the court will require the parent or guardian to seek court approval to settle. This is to ensure that the child’s interests are being protected. While most parents would never dream of stealing from their own child, it has happened before. So courts are very protective of children receiving large sums of money.
What Happens to the Money
Funds recovered and approved by the court are to be placed into a protected guardianship account for the child’s benefit. If the net proceeds of the settlement fall under $15,000, judges will sometimes allow the parents to receive the money with instructions to use it for the child’s benefit.
Why Insurance Companies Often Require Court Approval Anyway
Even where not specified by the law, many defendants and insurance companies will require a court approval anyway. This is because a child could, at least in theory, grow up and change their mind. A child has no legal capacity to settle a claim, and absent court authority, a parent doesn’t necessarily have the legal right to bind a child to a contract that may violate the child’s rights. Since the statute of limitations for a child does not run until upwards of 3 years after turning 18, insurance companies and defendants want to be sure they are guarded against a lawsuit decades later.
If your child has suffered an injury and you need help recovering compensation, call or visit Roman & Roman, P.A. online today to schedule a free consultation.