Lawsuit Settlements For Minor Children May Require A Guardian
If a minor is involved in a personal injury case and receives a settlement, the matter is not as easy as having the defendant pay whatever money is owed to the child’s parents. That’s because the money paid is technically the child’s, and courts want to make sure that the money is being handled safely and properly.
Court Approvals and Guardianships
If your child receives a settlement of $15,000 or more, a Florida court must approve of the settlement. However, even under that amount, the court has to approve of the settlement if the case was actually filed in court.
The same holds true of any global settlement (that is, a settlement among multiple parties, where the child is a party) that is over $50,000, no matter how much of that settlement the child will receive (even if it’s less than the $15,000 individual threshold).
Additionally, defendants (or lawyers for parents) cannot avoid court intervention by just having liable defendants pay settlement money that is for the benefit of a minor child to the parents or guardians.
What Does a Guardian Do?
Assuming court approval is needed, a guardianship will need to be established to safeguard the money, and ensure that it is invested or spent for the benefit of the minor. The guardian will have to be represented by an attorney, who will usually be paid out of the proceeds of the settlement if there is no other way to pay the attorney.
Once money for a settlement is approved, the guardian cannot use that money for the guardian—even if the guardian is using the money as support for the child.
The guardian can, with the court’s approval, invest the money for the child’s benefit, and periodically make payments with court approval.
For example, if the money needs to be used for educational expenses, medical costs, or life necessities, the guardian can always petition the court for approval to disperse the money. The guardian will need to show an accounting to the court to show how the settlement money has been used.
The court may require guardians to use their own money to pay for life expenses of the child (as a parent normally would) before allowing the guardian to dip into the settlement funds. The court’s purpose is to safeguard and protect the money so that it is there for the child when they turn 18.
A Lot of Factors
These laws can get complex because of the interplay between injury lawsuits that are filed in court and not filed, what the gross vs the net recovery to the child is, and whether court approval, a guardian, or both, are required. Requirements may also depend on the amount of the settlement, how many parties are involved, and how much of the settlement will go to the minor.
This is why in a personal injury case involving a minor, a guardianship attorney may need to be retained to handle the settlement for the minor.
Do you need a guardianship attorney for a minor’s injury or lawsuit settlement? We can help. Contact the Tampa guardianship lawyers at the Gilbert Garcia Group, P.A.