Florida Law Chart for Settlement of Minors’ Personal Injury Claims

law books.jpgIndividuals in Florida under 18 years of age, considered minors, do not have the legal capacity to settle personal injury claims or control the settlement proceeds. Minors are typically represented in their cases by one or both parents, who, by operation of law, are their legal guardians. In the absence of a parent or where the suitability of a parent is in question, a court can appoint someone else. In some instances, another person, like a grandparent, has already been appointed legal guardian by a court. The legal guardian chooses the lawyer who will handle the personal injury case.

Whether and to what extent further court involvement is required, depends on for how much money the case is settled. In some instances the legal guardian can settle the case without court intervention, while, in others, the court becomes deeply involved. Court involvement adds delay and costs. What follows is a chart setting forth the 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 must contain details of the case regarding 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).

The guardian of the property, usually the legal guardian, is responsible for signing releases and collecting the net settlement proceeds. However, the court retains sole jurisdiction to determine the allocation and use of the minor’s money, including as to how it should be invested for safekeeping until the minor reaches the age of majority. Until majority, the legal guardian needs court approval to touch the minor’s money. The Court is supposed to consider what is in the best interest of the minor when determining if or how the proceeds can be used.

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 provide the court with an unbiased analysis of the wisdom, from the standpoint of the best interests of the minor, of the proposed settlement and allocations. Once the analysis is complete, the Guardian Ad Litem submits a report to the court containing his or her opinions. Guardian Ad Litem reports can be challenged.

Handling minors’ claims is challenging and gratifying. Because they involve unique issues, doing so properly requires experience and a solid knowledge of the law.

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Contact us toll free at 866-785-GALE or by email for a free, confidential consultation.

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.

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