Friendly Suits: Personal Injury Claims for Minors
Texas law allows settlements for children in car accident cases. These are called commonly referred to as “friendly suits,” since the minor doesn’t have the legal capacity to file the suit directly. Instead, the parents or relatives of the child ask the court to appoint a guardian ad litem on the child’s behalf.
The guardian ad litem is an attorney who is there to protect the best interests of your child. The parent or relative of the child will be classified as the child’s “next friend.”
The guardian ad litem will not be your personal injury party. This person must be a neutral third party appointed by the court to protect your child’s interest in any personal injury settlement.
Settlement Offers for Children in Texas
The child’s guardian ad litem will review any settlement offers and determine whether accepting these offers is in the child’s best interest. The guardian ad litem takes the recommendation back to the next friend. The court will then schedule a “minor settlement hearing,” which allows the judge to review the settlement.
The minor settlement hearing simply gets the matter in front of a judge. The judge and the attorneys ask a few questions and go over the records. These hearings are also known as “prove up” hearings, as they’re designed to help the court determine whether the settlement really is in the child’s best interest.
The judge may accept the settlement, demand a reconsideration of the settlement, or order the case to trial.
Collecting in a Friendly Suit in Texas
Once the offer gets accepted, the money is placed in a bank account the court controls called a Court Registry. Friendly suit settlement money is typically held in the court registry until the child turns 18. This is to keep the minor from spending the money inappropriately. It’s also to make sure the money goes to the injured child, and not to the child’s parents or guardians.
The court can also opt to place the money in an annuity set aside for personal injury claimants. This option offers the child a structured payout over a certain period of time.
In either case, the money will earn interest until the child is of age. The annuity is a popular option, as it will provide your child with a monthly income instead of giving the child a massive windfall at the age of 18.
Other Settlement Options for Texas Children
If the child is close to the age of 18 they may consider waiting to file a lawsuit on their own behalf. This will be a matter of strategy, since waiting too long could destroy evidence and make it more difficult to prove the child’s claim.
Keep in mind that your minor child’s medical bills are still your responsibility, and thus would generally be included in your personal injury suit as a parent.
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