Minors can’t immediately file a personal injury suit until they are of age. So, if the accident happened when they were a minor, the filing process is frozen until they are eighteen years old. An exception to this is when a parent, legal guardian, or authorized personal representative pursues the case on behalf of the minor child.
Legal Standing for Minors
Minors do not have any legal standing to sue anyone. However, in some cases, the minor victim can request that the claim be brought for their injuries by a guardian ad litem. This person would serve as the personal representative of the minor.
Once a legal representative has been established, that person has the authority to file a personal injury lawsuit, pursue their injury claim in court, and follow the case through final judgment and settlement.
The Role of a Guardian Ad Litem
The guardian ad litem ultimately takes on the entire decision-making process for the minor when it comes to their personal injury lawsuit. One of the most important decisions they are tasked with is deciding on a settlement offer. The guardian ad litem will often be in touch with the minor’s parents throughout the entirety of the lawsuit.
The minor’s representative can make a claim for the child until the minor turns eighteen. If a claim has not been made by that point, they have three years from their 18th birthday until their 21st birthday to file a claim themselves.
Who Is Entitled to the Settlement Money?
In the case of a minor’s personal injury settlement, the child’s parents can receive the award as long as the amount is less than $15,000. The settlement is considered the minor’s legal property and often comes with a set of provisions determining how the money should be spent.
If hospital bills and other such expenses are in the original claim, the settlement money may be designated to pay off these expenses. If the settlement comes out to be more than $15,000, then the amount must be approved by the court and accepted by the minor’s parent or guardian.
The remainder of the minor’s settlement money may be put into a bank account, trust fund, educational or college fund, or court-monitored bank account. Some are structured settlements, which means the money will be distributed according to a specific schedule once the minor turns eighteen.
When to File a Claim
When it comes to personal injury cases involving minors, the deadlines for filing are a bit more complicated than a case with an adult. The statute of limitations on the case is 7 years or until they turn eighteen, as we have already mentioned. Before this, a minor isn’t considered competent enough to file his own claim and settle his own lawsuit.
You Shouldn’t Wait
If your minor child was involved in an accident and sustained injuries due to the negligence of another, then don’t wait to file their claim. Since cases involving minors can be more complicated than standard personal injury cases involving adults, it may be in your best interest to consult an experienced personal injury attorney who can guide you through the process.