Personal Injury Law Blog

Average Personal Injury Settlements for Minors in California

All a parent ever wants is to keep their child safe. Children are especially vulnerable to injury due to their small frame and naivete toward risks. Despite all the efforts made to keep them safe, accidents can still happen. But when a minor child suffers injuries due to someone else’s negligence, it creates a devastating physical and emotional toll on families. The road to recovery may be long, but a personal injury attorney can help you pursue a personal injury settlement for your minor child. 

What Is a Guardian Ad Litem? 

California law does not permit anyone under the age of 18 to sign or enter into any contract. When it comes to personal injury settlements for minors, minors are not permitted to independently accept settlement offers, defend themselves in a lawsuit, or represent themselves in court.

Personal injury lawsuits concerning minor children must obtain a court-appointed Guardian Ad Litem. A Guardian Ad Litem acts in the best interests of a child and can be the parent or relative of the minor child. It’s important to note that a Guardian Ad Litem has no legal rights to any settlement or compensation the minor receives. 

The role of the Guardian Ad Litem lasts until the minor child reaches the age of 18. In situations where the Guardian Ad Litem becomes unavailable or stops acting in the best interests of the minor child, the court will step in and appoint a replacement. 

Can a Parent Recover a Personal Injury Settlement for Their Minor Child? 

If a personal injury settlement for a minor child is reached in California, the court must approve it, without any exceptions and no matter the size of the settlement. Once a personal injury settlement for a minor child is reached, you must file a petition called a Minor’s Compromise with the court. The petition seeks approval of the agreed-upon settlement terms. A Minor’s Compromise includes information such as the following:

  • Description of the claim, the incident, and injuries; 
  • All medical reports related to the injuries;
  • The amount and terms of the proposed settlement agreement; and 
  • Direction on the management of the settlement proceeds for the minor child. 

If all parties agree to the settlement terms, the parent may sign the agreement document on behalf of their child. Additional conditions exist for those signing a personal injury settlement on behalf of a minor child, including:

  • Either parent may sign a settlement agreement for child injury claims if the child resides with both parents;
  • If the parents of the child are separated or divorced, only the custodial parent may sign on behalf of the minor child; or 
  • A legal guardian or Guardian Ad Litem may sign for the child. 

The personal injury settlement funds may be transferred to the child’s trust if the child has a legal guardian of their estate. 

The court will approve a settlement if the court finds that the settlement agreement adequately compensates the child for their injury claims. Attorney’s fees and costs may be paid out of the settlement proceeds. 

Receipt of Settlement

Transfer of settlement funds only occurs when the minor child turns 21. California Probate Court permits parents and guardians to manage personal injury settlements for minors amounting to less than $5,000. If a more substantial settlement amount results from child accident claims, the court may order staggered payments to the minor child at certain stages of life. For example, payment terms may provide for 25% of the settlement value at age 21, 25, 30, and 35. 

Unapproved Personal Injury Settlement for the Minor Child  

If a child accident claim settlement fails to obtain court approval, when the injured child reaches the age of 18, they may bring their lawsuit against the at-fault party. There are obvious disadvantages to waiting until an injured minor reaches the age of maturity. For example, if the child is five years old at the time of the injury, they have to wait thirteen years to bring a lawsuit. Much can happen during that time, including the at-fault party passing away. Additionally, consider a situation where the minor child sustains serious injuries in their accident. For an extended period, the child fails to obtain the compensatory support needed to assist in their recovery.  

Common Causes of Child Accident Claims 

While parents work to minimize safety risks to their children, unfortunately, accidents still happen. The most common causes of child accident claims include the following:

  • Dog bites, 
  • Car accidents, 
  • School bus accidents, 
  • School accidents, 
  • Birth injuries, 
  • Swimming pool accidents, 
  • Toy injuries, and
  • Sports injuries.

While the term “accident” implies that no one is at fault, many child accident claims result from the negligent acts of another. In those situations, it’s important to retain the counsel of a qualified personal injury attorney. Establishing fault is a vital element of recovering compensation for your injured child, and your attorney will work to create a strong case on your child’s behalf. 

What Are Recoverable Damages in Child Injury Claims? 

If you choose to file a lawsuit in connection with your child’s injuries, your child may be entitled to receive compensation through a personal injury settlement. After careful review of the particular facts and circumstances, your attorney will be better able to assess the case’s estimated value. Generally, recoverable damages in child accident claims include compensatory damages and punitive damages. Compensatory damages intend to make a victim whole and consist of two categories: Economic and Non-Economic Damages. 

Economic Damages represent calculable financial losses that are identified with certainty. These include the following:

  • Past and future medical expenses; 
  • Your child’s lost earning capacity; and
  • Property damage.

Your attorney proves economic damages through receipts, invoices, and other tangible evidence supporting financial loss. 

Non-Economic Damages represent subjective and intangible losses that vary from case to case. Non-economic damages are more difficult to prove and include the following types of losses: 

  • Emotional distress; 
  • Pain and suffering;
  • Diminished quality of life; and 
  • Disfigurement.

Your personal injury attorney uses the testimony of medical experts and family members to support a finding of non-economic damages. 

Punitive damages may be awarded when the at-fault party acted out of malice or in a grossly negligent manner. Punitive damages often exceed a compensatory damage award as they intend to punish the at-fault party and deter similar future conduct. 

Contact Us

Watching your child suffer due to an avoidable accident is an emotionally harrowing time for parents. We understand the devastation you must be feeling as you assist in your child’s recovery. You may feel angry, sad, overwhelmed, and not know which way to turn.

The attorneys at Glotzer & Lieb, LLP., never tell you how to feel but help you and your child get better. You and your family are never just a number to us. We value and care for our clients and maintain relationships with them long after their case is resolved. If you have questions about personal injury settlements for minors in California, contact our office today.

Regardless of your financial situation, we want to hear from you. Contact us today for a free case evaluation and learn how Glotzer & Lieb, LLP., can help you and your family.  

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