Settling Minors’ Personal Injury Claims in Florida

Personal injury claims of individuals under the age of 18 present unique procedural demands for the legal practioner. For starters, the attorney represents the minor through the minor’s legal guardian, typically one parent or both. This is because minors cannot pursue claims through the court system or settle them, pre- or post-suit, on their own.

Whether or not any other procedural requirements must be met depends on the gross amount of the settlement. The chart below sets forth the standards for these other requirements.

POTENTIAL ADDITIONAL REQUIREMENTS:

Court Approval of Settlement Required:

  • Gross Settlement is $15,000 or less – No, unless a lawsuit has been filed, then yes. Sections 744.301(2) & 744.387(3)(a) Florida Statutes.

    Court approval is obtained by filing a Petition for Approval of Minor’s Settlement with the Court. The Petition should contain details of the case, including the issues of liability and damages, the amount of the settlement, and the amount of attorneys’ fees and costs. In many instances, the Court will approve the settlement without a hearing.

  • Gross Settlement is greater than $15,000, but less than $50,000 – Yes. Section 744.387(3)(a).
  • Gross Settlement in excess of $50,000 – Yes. Section 744.387.

Need Legal Guardianship/Guardian of the Property Appointed:

  • Gross Settlement is $15,000 or less – No.
  • Gross Settlement is greater than $15,000, but less than $50,000 – Yes, but only if the Net settlement (after gross settlement is reduced by attorney’s fees and costs) exceeds $15,000. Section 744.387(2).
  • Gross Settlement in excess of $50,000 – Yes, but only if the Net settlement exceeds $15,000. Section 744.387(2).

It is not unusual for the legal guardian and the guardian of the property to be the same individual or individuals. This person will be charged with collecting the amount of the minor’s net judgment and executing all necessary releases. However, the court will retain sole jurisdiction to determine the allocation and use of the minor’s net settlement, oftentimes insisting that it be put into a conservative account for safekeeping until the minor reaches majority. Until majority, whenever the legal guardian wishes to use the minor’s money, court approval must be obtained. The Court’s determination will be based on what is in the minor’s best interest.

Need Guardian Ad Litem:

  • Gross Settlement is $15,000 or less – No.
  • Gross Settlement is greater than $15,000, but less than $50,000 – At the judge’s discretion. Section 744.3025.
  • Gross Settlement Exceeds $50,000 – Yes. Section 744.3025.

The Guardian Ad Litem is appointed by the Court to oversee the actions of the minor’s attorney and recommend to the court, in a written report, whether or not the proposed settlement is in the minor’s best interest.

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Contact us at 866-785-GALE or by email to learn your legal rights.

Jeffrey P. Gale, P.A. is a South Florida based law firm committed to the judicial system and to representing and obtaining justice for individuals – the poor, the injured, the forgotten, the voiceless, the defenseless and the damned, and to protecting the rights of such people from corporate and government oppression. We do not represent government, corporations or large business interests.