Unfortunately, many accidents result in children getting injured. When a minor is injured and a settlement of the minor’s claim occurs, any party involved in the litigation may insist that the minor’s settlement be first approved by the trial court. Even if the parent or legal guardian of the injured minor child does not seek court approval, any party involved in the litigation and the minor’s settlement, such as the party responsible for the injury, may condition any minor’s settlement upon approval by a judge of the trial court.
When this happens, a petition for approval is presented to the court and the judge then considers the terms of the settlement on behalf of a minor. This can occur as a result of a motor vehicle accident, medical malpractice, a slip-and-fall accident, an alcohol-related injury or a products liability claim.
Whenever a minor is injured the issue of a court approval may arise. The court is then free to make decisions as to whether the minor’s settlement is reasonable, whether the person appointed to manage the money is appropriate or any other term that the court decides is reasonable and necessary. This can involve trusts for the benefit of the minor injured party, as well as, the payment of unpaid medical bills and the payment of liens of all types.
When a trust is involved, the court may order specific terms under which the money is to be held for the benefit of the minor. The court can determine whether payments can be made before the minor becomes an adult — for example, to cover ongoing expenses of the minor child, such as education. Also, the court can make a determination as to when the child is to receive the money in the future. Any time a minor is involved in an accident, court approval of any minor’s settlement will usually arise.
There is a risk in any minor’s court settlement approval that the trial judge sets conditions in addition to those requested. A court is free, upon a petition for minor settlement approval, to appoint a third-party to act on the child’s behalf, even when a parent or guardian is available, to appoint a third-party to hold and invest the funds of the minor child, to restrict the use of the funds, or to take any other action the court determines is in the child’s best interest. Often, even though not requested, the court has the authority to appoint a guardian ad litem to review the whole case and then report back to the judge as to whether a minor’s settlement in court is in the child’s best interest. There is always the risk upon any petition for a minor’s settlement approval that the court will set its own terms, even when not requested.