Settling My Child’s Personal Injury Case
A child can bring a lawsuit or file a personal injury claim with the insurance company through you as the parent.
A personal injury case involving injuries to a child has two parts: one part is reimbursement for the medical expense that the parent pays for the child’s medical treatment, and the second part is compensation paid for the child’s pain and suffering.
Your child is entitled to recover damages for the pain and suffering she has endured, for any permanent disability to her body or brain, and for her future loss of her earning capacity as an adult.
As the parent, you have the right to recover compensation for your child’s past and future medical expenses.
The Medical Expenses Issue
The statute of limitations for filing a personal injury lawsuit in Georgia is two years from the date of the accident although that clock can be paused in certain circumstances. One of those pausing circumstances is for a minor, a person who is under the age of 18. A minor has until she turns 20. O.C.G.A. § 9-3-90(a).
However, as the parent, you are responsible for paying your child’s medical bills and because you are over 18, your clock to get reimbursed does not pause. Your claim for reimbursement for the medical expenses you paid or for which you are liable must be settled or you must file a claim in court within two years. If you do not, then you lose your right to recover the medical expenses you paid, regardless of the fact that your child can wait until she turns 20 to file her own case.
Do You Have to Be a Court-Appointed Legal Conservator?
Settlements of More Than $15,000
If no lawsuit has been filed and the proposed gross settlement amount (i.e., before attorney’s and other expenses associated with litigation or medical treatment are taken out) is more than $15,000, the settlement must be approved by the Court. If the gross settlement amount is over $15,000 and the net proceeds are $15,000 or less, the child’s parent may seek the Court’s approval without first becoming the conservator of the child. On the other hand, if the gross settlement amount is more than $15,000 and the net proceeds are over $15,000 as well, the child’s parent has to first become the child’s conservator before seeking the Court’s approval. O.C.G.A. § 29-3-3.
Your petition to be appointed conservator is filed in probate court.
The settlement funds are then deposited in a separate bank account that no one can access without court permission.
This rule was designed to prevent parents from taking a portion of the settlement funds or raiding their child’s account.
Settlements of Less Than $15,000
If you settle your child’s case for a gross amount of under $15,000, then you do not need to file a petition to be appointed conservator of the funds and do not need court approval of the settlement. O.C.G.A. § 29-3-3(c).
As the natural guardian of your child, you “may receive and shall thereafter hold and use all or part of the personal property for the benefit of the minor and shall be accountable for the personal property but shall not be required to become the legally qualified conservator as to that personal property.” O.C.G.A. § 29-3-1. While you do not need to get the court’s approval, you cannot simply take all of your child’s settlement and use it for your own personal benefit.