Friendly Suits in Texas: Personal Injury Claims for Minors
Settling a personal injury claim for a minor is different from settling a claim for an adult because of the simple fact that minors are not able to sign contracts. Indeed, whereas an adult can simply agree to the terms of the settlement and sign the agreement, a child or minor is not able to do this. This is where the concepts guardian ad litem and friendly suit come into play.
Here, the parties would file a friendly suit which is essentially a lawsuit between both parties, that is, the person who caused injury to the minor (usually represented by the insurance company) and the representatives of the minor. A friendly suit is required in order to seek approval of a judge in the personal injury settlement involving this minor.
Approval is needed in this regard because there are instances in which the interests of the parents are not in keeping with the interests of the minor involved. The court handles this by appointing a guardian ad litem, which is an attorney acting for the sole benefit of the minor that experienced the personal injury.
The role of the guardian ad litem involves conducting preliminary investigations such as reviewing the medical records of the minor as well as other documents related to the child’s injuries, reviewing the facts of the personal injury incident as well as speaking with the minor’s parents in order to obtain a general understanding of the child’s current condition.
This is usually followed by a “prove-up” hearing where the guardian ad litem presents the findings, observations and facts related to the minor’s personal injury incident to the judge. Finally, the guardian ad litem then notifies the judge whether he/she approves or disapproves of the settlement. From here, the judge will decide in favor of or against the proposed settlement.
Furthermore, there are often times when a court will suggest that the funds for the child from the settlement be invested in an annuity to provide a source of income once that child becomes an adult. This structured settlement is usually preferred among parents as opposed to the other option of placing the funds in a registry of the court until the minor becomes an adult; thereby providing a lump sum on their 18th birthday. The return on the investment from the annuity is also preferred in this regard.
However, it is important to note that as this process can be quite consuming and tedious, a lot of insurance companies try to get around this process by asking for a settlement with the inclusion of the parent’s indemnification for claims in the future. This eradicates the “prove-up” process and results in the parents signing an agreement that whilst the minor may still have the right to sue the insurance company in the future for the same personal injury claim, the parent will stand the cost of the attorney fees of the defendant (the person who caused the injury) as well as the monies paid by the insurance company. If you require more information on personal injury claims involving minors, please contact us for a free, no-obligation consultation today.Law Offices of Ronald A. Ramos, P.C.