Feb
10

How is a Minor Child’s Money Handled in a Personal Injury Settlement?

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Question:  My daughter was a pedestrian that was hit by a car and suffered some serious injuries.  She is a minor.  I want to bring a claim or lawsuit against the responsible party.  But I was told that the money would be placed in an account set up by the court until she is eighteen years old.  Is that true?  Can I get the money out earlier if I need it?

Robert’s Answer:  For the most part, that is correct.  Whenever a minor is involved in a personal injury case, the claims are basically divided into two parts.  The first part are the claims that actually belong to the minor’s parents or legal guardians in their individual capacity.  One example would be the medical bills.  The parent may sue for recovery of the medical expense of their child because, under Texas law, a parent is responsible for maintaining the health of their child while the child is a minor.  So, if a minor child is injured due to someone else’s negligence and needs medical treatment, then the claim for those medical bills belongs to the parent of the minor child.  This would also go for the attorney’s fees and case expenses if the parent chooses to hire a personal injury attorney.

The second part of the minor’s claim includes those damages that are personal to the child.  Common examples would be pain and suffering, physical impairment, mental anguish, disfigurement, etc.  These claims belong to the child.  However, under Texas law, a minor cannot bring a lawsuit individually.  They can only do so after they turn 18 or are otherwise emancipated.  But a parent can act as the personal representative of the minor child and bring those claims on the child’s behalf.  This means the parent would be acting as the “next friend” of the child.

That is why you see personal injury lawsuits involving minor children styled like this: “John Doe, Individually, and as Next Friend of Jane Doe, a minor….”  John Doe is bringing suit for his own individual claims as the child’s parent, such as the medical bills.  And John Doe is also bringing suit as “Next Friend” of his minor child for the child’s claims.

If their is a settlement or award of any money in the case, the funds are divided.  One portion is allocated for the medical expenses and any attorney’s fees and cases expenses.  The remainder is allocated for the child.  However, the court needs to protect that money for the child.  Likewise, the child’s portion is put into a trust account maintained by the court where it will gain a certain rate of interest.  When the child turns 18 or is otherwise declared an adult, the money is released to the child.

The parent may petition the court for early release of some or all of the money.  However, the Court will only agree to do so if the court feels like it is in the best interest of the child.  Normally, the court will not allow the parent to have any of the money for the parent’s own financial reasons.  This is because the court views the money as compensation that belongs to the child and not for the financial benefit of the parent.

Categories : Ask Robert C. Slim

Comments

  1. Mireya moreno says:

    Hello. I adopted a child from cps. She is supposed to have a trust fund due to a car accident when she was 4 yo. We have no information on which court handled her settlement and no contact with bio. Family. How can she get a hold of her monies once she is 18?

    • There are a lot of ways to find out. When the settlement was approved, it was done through a court process. There would have been a hearing and the judge would have signed an order. If you know what county the court proceedings were in, then you can call the court clerk and they can try to find the case information through a name search. Another way would be to call the attorney who represented the child for the injury claim as well as the insurance company that paid the settlement. It’s hard to answer this question without knowing what process your specific case involved and what information you may have available.

  2. Tammy Langenberg says:

    My 15 yr old son has an IQ of 57. I was told the money he’s getting from a car wreck settlement will be put into an account till he’s 18. I feel this is unfair as he won’t be getting a car, and he will have to live with us anyways after 18. What can I do to get his money sooner for him?

    • Has the settlement already been finalized and paid? If not, then you might be able to talk to the “guardian ad litem.” This is an attorney appointed by the court to review the settlement. You might ask the GAL to back your request to take some of the money to buy a car for the child. Maybe the GAL will agree and make the recommendation to the court. However, it’s ultimately the court’s decision on what is in the best interest of the child.

  3. Kiana says:

    I am currently looking into a huge settlement from a vehicle injury. Is it possible for me to put my settlement money into a family members account who I Live with, instead of a trust as I am under 18?

    I would be looking into using this for a car and a house, is this possible to accomplish?

    • It’s possible, especially if you were going to be 18 very soon. However, the judge is going to be very concerned about whether the money is protected until you are 18. All you can do is discuss the matter with the guardian ad litem and maybe you can work something out.

  4. Beatriz says:

    Hello, I was hit by an 18 wheeler in Grand Prairie, TX. Fortunately, there were no major physical damages, just some scuff marks on the passenger side of my car and the rear view mirror was damaged. However, my nerves are shot. It was terrifying watching that huge trailer coming at me. Is there some kind of compensation for that experience? I don’t know much about accidents and the type of compensation you can receive. Thank you!

    • Thank you for your comment and question. Unfortunately, Texas does not recognize claims solely for mental anguish. There has to be some corresponding physical injury involved. The only time mental anguish can be recovered on its own is if the wrongful conduct was done intentionally.

  5. Rebecca says:

    Hello my son has a settelment and i was displaced (homeless) just recently got a place,can i ask the judge for money for bedding and a computer for my son? Do you think the judge will grant me some,im low income and cant afford a bed for my son,im really finacially hurt at the moment

    • It depends on how much money you are requesting, the reason for the money, and the judge. Most judges will not allow it, especially if it cuts deeply into the child’s money. But if it’s a relatively small amount compared the the total fund, and the judge believes the money is needed for the “best interests of the child,” they may allow it.

  6. Patti S Benjamin says:

    My granddaughter received a settlement in a trust fund after an accident as a child. She is 18 now and wants to collect her money. Does she go to the courts or through the attorney her mother had at the time?

    • Generally, it’s as easy as going to the court clerk’s office and presenting identification. There may be some forms to fill out. But the original court order probably provided for the clerk to release the money to the child once she presents proper proof of her age.

  7. Silda Raquel says:

    My son was hit by a car in the bronx ny. It was a hit n run. I was told that because the driver was never caught, I could not sue my own insurance company. I filed a claim myself but now that I am just waiting for them to open my son’s trust account, they are saying that is a rare case because they cannot put the money in a regular account trust, that it needs to be a “Medicare trust account t” which I am not familiar with and don’t know what it means. What is that type of account and are they telling me the truth?

    • Thank you for your comment. Unfortunately, I am unable to speak on your situation. I am a personal injury lawyer in Dallas, Texas. I am not familiar with the laws and rules in your state. You will need to consult with an attorney in the state where you reside or where the accident occurred.

  8. John Jackson says:

    My son and I was In a car wreck due to a drunk driver head on about 9 yrs ago. I got my part of the settlement but my son at the time was only 1 month and banged his head up pretty badly. I was told at the time that they were going to put my son part of the settlement in a trust fund. How can i go about trying recover it.

    • Thank you for your comment. Unfortunately, it is highly unlikely that you will be allowed to recover any part of that money. A court will only allow it under very limited and exigent circumstances. Rather, your son can recover it when he turns eighteen (or is otherwise emancipated).

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