Injuries to Children
Injuries suffered by children are a sad but all too common occurrence. Over the last twenty years, our lawyers have handled cases involving injuries to children throughout the greater Jacksonville area including those caused by: sporting accidents; daycare negligence; farm equipment; defective products; premises liability; falls; car accidents; the wrongful death of a parent; trucking accidents; and rear-end collisions.
Claims involving children have specific legal requirements that must be followed. As such, hiring an attorney experienced in handling claims involving minors is important.
In Florida, there are statutory requirements that must be followed in order to pursue and resolve a claim on behalf of a child. First, the claim must be brought by a legal guardian of the child. Natural parents are legal guardians; however, in their absence, a formal guardian must be appointed by the probate court.
Florida Statute § 744.387 (2) allows a legal guardian to settle a minor’s personal injury claim without court approval if the amount of the settlement does not exceed $15,000.00, provided that suit has not been filed. If a lawsuit has been filed, the judge presiding over the case must approve the settlement regardless of the amount.
Florida Statute § 744.387 (3)(b) requires a guardian of the settlement funds be established if the “net” settlement to the child exceeds $15,000.00. The net settlement is the amount of a recovery after paying attorney fees, costs and repaying medical bills or health insurers. A guardianship so established requires that the guardian petition the court in order to get approval to spend any of the settlement funds. The Court has the ability to scrutinize the intended expenditure to ensure it is in the best interest of the child. In this manner, for settlements of significant size, parents are prevented from spending a child’s money for their own interests.
This guardianship process; however, is cumbersome and can add expenses that ultimately get paid from the child’s recovery. As such, when we settle injury claims for children, we often recommend a structured settlement. To do so, we use an annuity company to structure a payment plan that allows for the child to receive less than $15,000.00 while he or she is under eighteen years of age with the balance being paid on his or her eighteenth birthday. In this manner, the parents can use some funds for the benefit of the child before he or she becomes an adult, while the majority of the funds gain interest and be used by the child upon turning eighteen. This can provide the child a great opportunity to pay for college or other career oriented expenses.
If you have any questions about a legal claim for personal injury suffered by a child in the greater Jacksonville area, please contact our lawyers for a free consultation. We handle cases throughout Northeast Florida including the following counties: Alachua; Baker; Bradford; Clay; Columbia; Duval; Flagler; Nassau; Putnam; St. Johns and Union. If we accept the case, you pay us nothing unless we make a financial recovery on the child’s behalf. Consultations are always free.