According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, an estimated 9.2 million children received treatment in emergency departments for an unintentional injury. These injuries were suffered from incidents that included everything from falls, fires, burns, and drowning to vehicle accidents. While most were non-life-threatening or relatively minor, others were serious—and the result of negligence or recklessness by the party who caused harm.
Filing a personal injury claim is a way to get compensation for someone injured in an accident through the fault of another. A settlement offer is made by the insurance company to the injured party to cover costs for medical treatment and other “special” damages, or those that can easily have a dollar amount put on them, such as loss of property or lost wages. However, when a minor is injured, things often get more complicated.
What is a minor settlement?
According to Texas law, a minor is a child who is not yet 18 years of age or has not been legally emancipated. As such, the minor is not yet old enough to enter into a contract or a settlement with an insurance company. That’s where a minor settlement hearing comes in. Often, and particularly where the settlement is going to be large, the insurance company requests this to ensure that once a settlement is reached, the insurance company is released from any additional liability.
The court’s concern is that any settlement reached is in the best interests of the child and is there for the benefit of the child. As your son’s or daughter’s parents (or guardian), you bring the claim on behalf of your child and are named the “next friend of the child.” To ensure that the child’s best interests are represented, the court may appoint a guardian ad litem. If appointed, the ad litem has several roles under Texas Civil Code 173.4: To “act as an officer and advisor to the court,” which includes determining and advising the court “whether a party’s next friend or guardian has an interest adverse to the party.”
Lastly, in order to ascertain whether a settlement is fair to the child, the court may also hold a “minor settlement prove-up hearing.” This is done to ensure that:
- The settlement amount is in line with the injuries and damages the child has suffered
- Attorney fees are reasonable
- The child has received proper and thorough medical treatment to avoid any undiscovered injuries not covered by the settlement
- The funds are secured in a court registry or an annuity that is held until the child has reached the age of 18. The money does not go to the parents.
Learn more about minor settlements from an experienced Texas personal injury attorney
When your child is injured, the first thing on your mind is making sure they get the help they need. In addition to medical attention, make sure that you have the skilled legal guidance you deserve to ensure that the settlement is fair and in your child’s best interest. To schedule a free consultation to discuss your case, please contact our personal injury lawyers online or call us at (281) 645-5000.