California law treats child victims of car accidents differently than adult victims. The state has specific rules about approving a car accident settlement for a child. Parents must follow the rules to protect their child’s legal rights. As you consider your next steps following a car accident that hurt your child, keep the following points in mind.
Children must file lawsuits through a GAL
In California, a child under the age of 18 is considered a minor. Minors cannot agree to contracts or file lawsuits. Therefore, a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) must file legal claims on behalf of a minor. The court authorizes the GAL to negotiate a car accident settlement for a child. The GAL makes decisions for the minor and must act in the child’s best interests.
A court appoints a GAL for a child. In car accident lawsuits, the GAL is usually one of the child’s parents. Another responsible adult can also be appointed.
Some children become legal adults before they turn 18 through a process called emancipation. A child becomes emancipated by getting married, joining the armed forces, or having a judge declare the child emancipated. Parental permission is required to get married or join the military. A judge’s permission is required to get married. For a declaration of emancipation, a child must prove several things to the court, including the ability to support oneself. The rules for lawsuits involving minors generally do not apply to emancipated minors.
Minors have different statutes of limitations for lawsuits than adults
Under California law, car crash victims have two years to file a lawsuit. The two-year window opens when the car accident occurs. For minors, the two-year window begins when they turn 18 or when they become emancipated. However, if the driver at fault in a car wreck is an uninsured motorist, the two-year time limit begins when the accident occurs, whether the victim is an adult or child. Also, if the driver at fault is a government worker or was driving a government car, shorter timelines probably apply. An experienced auto accident attorney can help you understand when and how to begin the process of seeking compensation for injuries from a car crash.
Court approval may be required for a car accident settlement for a child
In California, a court must approve any personal injury settlement for a minor that is more than $5,000. Parents or guardians can move forward with settlements lower than that amount without court approval. Insurance companies may choose to request court approval if the gross settlement is over $5,000, even if the net amount the child will receive is less than $5,000. Court expenses, attorney’s fees, and medical expenses can reduce a child’s settlement payout.
Court approval ensures the settlement is fair and equitable and in the child’s best interests. If the Court finds the settlement is not just and appropriate, it can reject the settlement. If that happens, the GAL cannot accept the settlement on behalf of the child, and the GAL may decide to take the case to court.
Court approval also ensures that the minor receives all the funds when the child becomes an adult. The court must review and approve details of where the money will be deposited and how it will be managed. The GAL must deposit the award in a blocked bank account for the child’s future use. No one can touch the account until the child turns 18 or is emancipated. A court can grant a few exceptions to this rule. However, even if a court approves opening the account before the child turns 18, the funds can only be used for the child’s benefit.
If the child’s award is less than $5,000, the GAL or parents do not need to use a blocked account. Nevertheless, the money’s use is limited to the benefit of the child.
A Minor’s Compromise must be filed with the court
If the GAL and the negligent driver’s insurance company reach a tentative car accident settlement for a child, the GAL and attorney must file a Petition to Approve a Compromise of a Disputed Claim or Pending Action by a Minor. This form is often called a “Minor’s Compromise” and leads to a minor’s compromise and release hearing. At this proceeding, the court reviews the proposed settlement agreement and plan for depositing the funds.
The GAL, the child, and the attorney usually attend this hearing. The Minor’s Compromise petition provides detailed information about the claim and the settlement. It includes a description of the accident, the present and future injuries to the child, the child’s claim, the proposed settlement, and what will happen to the money. If the petition contains all the necessary information, the settlement is fair and equitable, and appropriate plans are made to hold the money until the child turns 18, the hearing is brief.
Contact a Long Beach Automobile Accident Attorney for Help
Your Injuries Are Personal to Me
Consulting an experienced car accident attorney is always wise after a car crash; when a child is injured, an attorney is especially helpful. With 30 years’ experience advocating for accident victims’ rights, I know how to protect your child’s legal rights. I understand the best way to maximize a child’s award for his future benefit. I will make sure you comply with all California law requirements and that your child receives the maximum amount possible.
If a car crash has hurt your family, I am a Long Beach Automobile Accident Attorney who can represent you. Because your injuries are personal to me, I handle all aspects of your claim. I have a network of experts who will help build a compelling case to obtain maximum compensation.
Call the Law Office of Michael D. Waks at 888-394-1174 today to learn how I can help. You can also use the convenient online contact form to schedule a free consultation. You will be under no obligation, and you will never pay any money unless you recover compensation for your losses.
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