Cases Involving Minors FAQs

March 31, 2015 | By Riddle & Brantley Accident Injury Lawyers
Cases Involving Minors FAQs

Anyone under the age of 18 is considered a minor in North Carolina. A minor cannot be sued or sue in his or her own name. North Carolina General Statute Section 1A-1, Rule 17(b) specifically sets forth the language regarding this rule. We frequently represent minors who have been injured by a dog bite, negligence of a day care facility, or in a car accident. Cases involving minors present a unique legal situation that we can help you handle.

When a minor is injured there are technically two claims:

  1. The parent’s claim for the amount of medical and out-of-pocket expenses they covered. The parents have this claim, since the minor cannot be legally responsible for medicals bills. This claim must be presented within the three year statute of limitations after the date of the accident, regardless of the child’s age when the accident occurs.
  2. The minor’s claim for pain and suffering, scarring, trauma and other damages personal to the minor. This claim belongs to the minor alone and typically consists of damages other than those the parents are responsible for. This claim also has a three year statute of limitations, but the three year time limit starts on the minor’s 18th birthday rather than on the date of the accident.

As you can see above, these two time frames may not always overlap. As a result, we are usually able to settle the minor’s claim within three years after the date of the accident. When settling a minor’s case during this time period we must always address whether the insurance company will require a judge to approve the settlement. Whether the settlement has to be approved by a judge is determined by the insurance company. Since the minor is under 18 and cannot sign a contract and release the defendant, the insurance company will require a judge to approve the settlement so the case will be resolved forever. Often, whether the insurance company will require a judge to approve the settlement will depend on the amount of the settlement.

Settling a Minor’s Case with Court Approval

If the insurance company requires court approval then we will have to appoint a guardian ad Litem and present the facts and details of the settlement in front of a judge. This often requires significant paperwork, which we will handle for you. In most cases we will need to appear personally in front of a judge.

Cases Involving Minors

Appointment of a Guardian ad Litem

A guardian ad Litem is typically a close relative, family friend, or another lawyer. The guardian ad Litem is intended to be a party who has no personal stake in the settlement and can help determine if the settlement is in the best interest of the minor. Different counties have preferences on how this is handled and who is appointed. We will help guide you through this process.

Appearing Before the Judge

Once the settlement is agreed upon by the parents and the guardian ad Litem, we will all appear in front of a judge.  Typically, this will occur in the county where the minor lives or wherever is most convenient for all parties. At the hearing, we will inform the judge about the facts of the accident, the injuries and medical treatment, the amount of the medical bills, the settlement amount and what amount the minor will be compensated. The judge may ask questions about how the minor is doing and whether they have made a complete recovery from the accident. We will help prepare you for the hearing in front of the judge. We want this process to run smoothly for you and your child.

What happens to minor’s compensation?

Judges will only approve a settlement if they are certain the minor will receive the compensation.  The only way a judge can insure this is to make sure the funds are invested and not received until the minor reaches the age of 18. In some instances, it is beneficial to invest the money in an annuity so it can accrue interest and grow. In other situations, the money will be held in the clerk’s office so that the minor can receive the entire amount when they turn 18. Whether to purchase an annuity or invest the proceeds in the clerk’s office will depend on how much money is available, how long it could be invested, and the preferences of the parents and guardian ad Litem. We will help you make the best decision possible for you and your child.

Settling a Minor’s Case without Court Approval

In a large number of cases, court approval is not necessary because the insurance company paying the proceeds of settlement does not require that we obtain court approval. In a lot of smaller cases, (usually cases that settle for less than $5,000) the insurance company will send a check and release and not require that the court approve the settlement. In those cases, we won’t have to file any court papers and we don’t need court approval. We will handle the settlement just like any other settlement but the parent or legal guardian will receive the funds for the minor. If the minor is close to age 18 at the time of settlement and the parents or legal guardians agree, we may wait until the client turns 18 and then we can disburse the funds.

Contact Our Experienced Personal Injury Attorneys

Settlements for injured parties under the age of 18 may require more work and scrutiny than other cases. At Riddle & Brantley, we are ready to help you with all types of injury cases that involve children under the age of 18, whether the accident involves a car accident, a bicycle accident, a pedestrian accident, a dog bite or a swimming pool accident.

We are here for you and we want to help. Call (800) 525-7111 for a free review of your claim.