Minors and Personal Injury Settlements

Charlotte Personal Injury Attorney Matt Arnold answers the question: “Can I post about my injury on Social Media?”


We talk about personal injury cases all the time and something that often goes unstated is that the vast majority of these cases involve adults. Though it might seem that age wouldn’t matter when it comes to resolving personal injury claims, it can actually make quite a big impact. The reason is that minors receive extra protection that adults don’t get, this protection then requires additional legal hurdles to clear before cases can truly be wrapped up. To learn more about minors and personal injury settlements, keep reading.


Thomas-train-toy-Charlotte-Injury-Lawyer-300x200The first thing to understand about minors involved in a personal injury case might come as a surprise to most people: personal injury settlements aren’t binding against minors. That’s right. If a case is settled and paid out, the child upon turning 18 could file suit and re-assert the claim. This would seem to undermine the entire point of a settlement, right? So how come this is allowed?


The reason that settlements aren’t binding on minors is because a minor is unable to offer legal consent. Before turning 18, an agreement by a minor is essentially worthless. But wait, you might be thinking, what about the parents? Surely the parents can enter into an agreement to settle a personal injury dispute on behalf of the child. Right and wrong. Though parents can bring claims on behalf of their minor children, they lack the standing to legally settle the claim on behalf of the children, they can only settle claims on behalf of themselves.


For example, if a kid is injured in a car wreck he or she may have expensive medical bills and require ongoing treatment. He or she might also have emotional damages due to the trauma of the crash. The parents could settle and resolve the dispute regarding the medical bills and treatment, things the parents are responsible for. However, they lack legal standing to resolve questions that directly relate to injuries suffered by the minor.


Given that a minor could simply re-file suit against a defendant after turning 18, you might now be wondering why a person would ever try to settle a dispute with a child. The reason is that if certain steps are taken, a settlement can become binding on a minor. To make a settlement binding, a court must get involved and approve the deal, essentially signing off on behalf of the child that everything appears to be aboveboard. This is known as a “friendly suit”.


Friendly suits work like this. Once two parties have agreed to a deal involving a minor, the defendant has an attorney file court papers for the friendly suit. The judge hearing the case appoints an independent advisor, known as a guardian ad-litem, whose job is to review the settlement and determine whether the deal is in fact in the best interest of the minor child. The guardian will usually ask that the proceeds of the settlement be placed in a special fund out of reach of not only the child, but the parents, ensuring that the child has access to the money only once he or she is legally old enough to manage the funds. Assuming this is agreed to and assuming the settlement seems fair, the guardian will then recommend that the court approve the settlement. Unless something strange happens, the judge will sign off and the settlement will be approved. Once the settlement gets the seal of approval from the court, the settlement becomes binding on the minor and the minor’s ability to bring a subsequent legal challenge is extinguished.


If you or someone close to you has been injured, contact an experienced personal injury attorney today who can help you receive the compensation to which you may be entitled. Contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC for a free consultation, call at 704-370-2828 or click here for additional resources.


About the Author

Matt Matthew Arnold is a Managing Member of Arnold & Smith, PLLC, where he focuses on the areas of family law, divorce, child custody, child support, alimony and equitable distribution.

Mr. Arnold was raised in Charlotte, where he graduated from Providence Senior High School. He attended Belmont Abbey College, where he graduated cum laude, before attending law school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on a full academic scholarship.

A board-certified specialist in the practice of Family Law, Mr. Arnold is admitted to practice in all state courts in North Carolina, in the United States Federal Court for the Western District of North Carolina, in the North Carolina Court of Appeals and Supreme Court, and in the Fourth Circuit United States Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia.

In his free time, Mr. Arnold enjoys golfing and spending time with his wife and three children.





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