If a parent settles a child’s Florida personal injury claim, the settlement may need court approval. Here, I’ll go over the when a child’s injury settlement will need court approval.
I’ll also explain when the insurance company must put a minor’s payout in a structured settlement or guardianship.
But that’s not it.
You’ll get to see which child injuries usually require court approval.
Sometimes parents want to try to settle his or her child’s case without an attorney. Even if a parent is able to settle his or her child’s case without an attorney, court approval may still be required.
There are 12 reasons to hiring an injury lawyer immediately after an accident. One benefit is that the attorney can help get court approval if it’s needed. A parent should not try to get approval of a child’s injury settlement on his or her own. This is a disaster waiting to happen.
Because court’s require specific forms and procedures. One missed step can delay court approval by months. Judges have busy schedules. They don’t like wasting their time.
Don’t assume that just because the insurance company’s hasn’t mentioned court approval, that they won’t. Sometimes adjusters will require court approval of the settlement only after the injured child’s parent has accepted a lowball offer.
Then the parent (and child) may be stuck with a terribly low offer. Don’t kid yourself. Adjusters often make a first offer that is a fraction of the actual case value.
Insurance claim adjusters often handle over 100 claims at one time. Thus, your child’s injury claim is likely just a needle in the insurance company’s haystack.
Keep in mind that the laws regard court approval of a child’s settlement also apply to settlements for foreign tourists who are injured in Florida. Likewise, they equally apply to people who are injured in a Florida car accident while visiting from another state.
I’ve settled many personal injury cases for children who were injured in Florida. Some of these settlements have required court approval.
Is Court Approval Needed for a Child’s Settlement That is Under $15K?
If the gross settlement amount equals $15,000.00 or less, and settlement is reached before the filing of a lawsuit, the claim can be settled by the natural guardians without court approval. 744.301 Fla. Stat.
The word “gross” means total. “Natural guardians” are typically the parents. (However, attorneys should be careful. As you will see in a moment, “gross” includes all settlement payments or proceeds received by all parties to the claim or lawsuit.)
Settling without a lawsuit has its advantages. One of which is that the parent won’t have to pay $400 or so to get the settlement approved. Courts have filing fees. They aren’t cheap.
What types of child injury cases are worth under $15,000?
If a child has one of the following types of injuries, his or her case is often worth under $15,000:
- Neck pain or back pain (without a herniated disc or permanent injury)
- Sprained ankle or other sprain.
- A cut that doesn’t leave a scar.
- The child doesn’t have surgery.
Ok. I’ve said that the above injuries are often not worth more than $15,000. When are those injuries worth $15,000 or more?
Additionally, if the child was hit by a drunk driver, those cases can be worth more than $15,000. This is true even if the child has a soft tissue injury. The threat of its insured facing punitive damages in drunk driving cases often gets the insurance company to pony up $15,000 or more.
Also, the only liability insurance available is a $10,000 policy, then it may be in the child’s best interest to settle for $10,000. This is true even if the child has a broken bone or surgery.
Worse yet, they sell some policies without any bodily injury liability insurance. And they are often in compliance with Florida auto injury liability insurance laws.
Court Approval May Be Needed for a Child’s Settlement That is Under $15K (if Other Parties Settle)
Let’s assume that a parent settles his child’s car accident injury case with USAA for $14,999. (USAA is a big insurance company.) Generally speaking, the parent can settle this case without court approval.
However, what happens if USAA also paid another party a $1 or more. This could happen if someone (in addition to the child) was injured in the car accident. In this instance, it appears that Florida law requires the child’s $14,999 settlement to get approved by a court.
In the Montalvan case, the court said:
Fla. Prob. R. 5.636(d). The committee notes for this provision provide a useful illustration.
The total settlement to be considered under subdivisions (d) and (e) is not limited to the amounts received only by the minor, but includes all settlement payments or proceeds received by all parties to the claim or action. For example, the proposed settlement may have a gross value of $60,000, with $30,000 payable to the minor and $30,000 payable to another party. In that instance the total proposed settlement exceeds $50,000.
Fla. Prob. R. 5.636 committee notes.”Allen v. Montalvan, 201 So. 3d 705 – Fla: Dist. Court of Appeals, 4th Dist. 2016
If all settlement payments (that include at least one child settlement) equal $15,000 or more, personal injury lawyers should get the settlement approved by the court. This is the safest route.
This is true even if the minor settlement is for less than $15,000 if another party also received compensation. Again, the most common situation where other parties will receive a payout will be in vehicle accident cases. This includes, but is not limited to, car and truck accident cases.
Is Court Approval Needed if the Settlement is Over $15K?
If the gross settlement exceeds $15,000.00 but the net recovery to the minor equals $15,000.00 or less, the claim can be settled by natural guardians with Court Approval, but no guardianship of the property required. (744.301/744.387 Fla. Stat.)
What does “net recovery” mean?
The net recovery is the amount that the minor gets after attorney’s fees, costs and medical expenses are paid.
Total settlement is more than $15K and the net recovery to the minor is more than $15K
If the total settlement is greater than $15,000.00 and the net recovery to the minor is greater than $15,000.00, the settlement requires court approval of the settlement and a minor guardianship of the property. (744.301/744.387 Fla. Stat.).
The court may require a guardian ad litem (GAL) to approve the settlement. (744.3025 Fla. Stat.) A guardian ad litem is an independent person who reviews the settlement to make sure that it is fair to the minor.
The guardian ad litem is a personal injury lawyer. Sometimes the GAL charges a fee to review the settlement. If the GAL charges a fee, it usually ranges from $500 to $1,500.
Other times, the court will allow the personal injury lawyer to get another attorney to be guardian ad litem. In this case, the guardian ad litem usually don’t charge a fee to review the settlement.
A minor guardianship of the property means that the money needs to be put in a place so that the minor child can’t have access to the money until age 18. Thus, the settlement money will have to be kept in a guardianship back account. In the alternative, a structured settlement can be set up.
Total Settlement is $50K or more and the net recovery to the minor is more than $15K
If the gross settlement is equal to or greater than $50,000.00, it needs court approval and a minor guardianship of the property if the net recovery to minor exceeds $15,000.00. This means that the settlement money will have to be kept in a guardianship back account. In the alternative, a structured settlement can be set up. Either way, the child cannot touch the money until he or she turns 18 years old.
The settlement requires a GAL unless a guardian of the property has been appointed and has no adverse interest to minor (744.3025/744.387 Fla. Stat.).
What Happens if a Structured Settlement is Needed, and the Child Lives in A Different Country?
The good news?
A structured settlement can still get set up for a foreign tourist. (Some foreign tourists refer to themselves as non-US citizens.)
For a foreign tourist, payments have to flow to a bank that is located in the United States (US) with a branch in the country of the tourist’s residence. This is so the injured child can get the payments when they become 18 years old. The United States (US) life companies (who issue annuities) will not mail a check to a foreign country.
One example of a bank that is located in the US and has a branch in another country is Barclays. Of course, there are many others.
What types of cases involving a child are worth over $50K?
If you look at past Florida jury verdicts, you’ll see that some injuries consistently have a full value of pain and suffering of over $50,000.
Some of these are injuries are if you have surgery to fix a:
- Lower leg (tibia) fracture
- Tibial plateau fracture
- Upper arm bone (humerus) fracture
- Shoulder joint tear (labrum tear)
- Broken wrist (distal radius fracture)
- Rotator cuff tear
- Fracture of a bone in your face
- Herniated disc
- Thumb fracture
- Broken upper leg bone (femur)
- Hip fracture
- Burst fracture or Compression fracture
- Ankle fracture
But that’s not it…
There are more injuries that usually are worth over $50,000. Another “injury” is a spinal fusion surgery.
It doesn’t stop there.
There are many other injuries that are worth more than $50,000. These include, but aren’t limited to, having a depressed or open skull fracture.
If a car accident caused one of those injuries, the biggest hurdle is often finding enough insurance to pay for the claim’s value.
If the child was injured while a passenger in a Lyft or Uber, there is usually enough insurance to pay for the claim’s fair value. This is because both Lyft and Uber have $1 million in liability insurance that covers passengers.
If the Uber or Lyft driver had the app on, but wasn’t engaged in a ride, there is only $50,000 of liability insurance per person.
Even without surgery, Progressive or York should pay the $50,000 per person limits for a child’s upper leg bone (femur) fracture. They may even pay the $50,000 per person limits for a lower leg bone (tibia or fibula) fracture without surgery.
As an example, I settled a case with GEICO for over $64,000 for a fibula fracture.
How Long Does a Child Personal Injury Case Take to Settle?
Many factors affect the time that it takes to settle a child injury case.
For example, let’s look at a Lyft or Uber accident claim.
If the Uber or Lyft driver had the app on, but wasn’t engaged in a ride, Progressive and York may quickly pay the $50,000 per person limits for the above injuries. A child injury claim that is worth more than the available insurance limits often results in a fast settlement.
This assumes the Uber or Lyft driver’s negligence caused the child’s injury.
Cases Where a Child’s Parent is Killed Have a Full Value of Over $50K
Cases involving a serious injury or the death of a parent have a full value over more than $50,000. Additionally, if a child witnesses the death of sibling, and child suffers a physical impact, the child’s emotional distress is often worth over $50,000.
Take, for example, the horrific incident where an alligator attacked and killed a boy (Lane Graves) at a Disney hotel in . Specifically, it happened at the Grand Florida Resort and Spa at Walt Disney World.
The Omaha Herald reported that the boys’ sister, Emma, was in a playpen 20 to 30 yards from the shoreline. Thus, she was at the scene of the horrific incident. However, she was not touched by the alligator. As a result, I don’t believe that she had a viable claim for her emotional distress.
Also, siblings are not “survivors” under Florida wrongful death law. Therefore, the sister didn’t have a wrongful death claim.
The parent’s settled the child’s case for over $50,000. Here is a document where the parents’ attorney asked the court to approve the sister’s “injury settlement”.
Here is another court document where the parents’ lawyer asked the court to not require a guardian of the property. They asked the court to do so because the settlement payout was placed into an irrevocable trust.
In other words, that trust can never be broken. There is another interesting issue with the case where Lane Grave’s parents asked the court to approve his sister’s settlement. They set up a guardianship of the property in Florida even though were she lived in another state.
I’ve written a lot about people who are injured in a Florida car accident while visiting from another state.
What are the most common child personal injury claims in Florida?
- Personal injury claims against a daycare or community center
- Car accidents and truck accidents
- Accidents on cruise ships
- “Minor Child” Claims If a Parent is Killed In a Florida Accident
- Much more
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