If your child has been injured and you have agreed to settle a claim on his or her behalf, you are not done yet – even if you have a signed settlement agreement in hand. You are only able to obtain the settlement funds for your child after jumping through a few hoops.
Minor’s compromise, often referred to as “minor’s comp,” is the procedure by which a parent or guardian (most likely through an attorney) provides details of a child’s settlement to the court for approval. This court approval is required for every settlement involving a child’s claim, even if no lawsuit has been filed. (There are some exceptions if the settlement is under $5,000.) The judge, in a sense, acts as the child’s advocate in examining the settlement terms to ensure it is a fair compromise for the child since, by agreeing to settle, the child is giving up the right to file a lawsuit down the road. (Children have until they turn 20 years old to file a personal injury lawsuit; the two-year statute of limitations does not start running until they turn 18).
The details of the child’s claim and settlement are examined at a hearing. Although this procedure sounds relatively straightforward, the paperwork required to support a minor’s compromise can be a bit daunting.
If the case is not currently in litigation, you will need to obtain a case number by filing a Civil Case Cover Sheet (Form CM-010) and paying to initiate the case ($435 in San Diego). A Guardian Ad Litem must be appointed for the minor (Form CIV-010) and the lengthy Petition for Approval of the Compromise must be prepared (Form MC-350) detailing physical/mental injuries, medical treatment sums, liens, and other fees. A proposed Order Approving the Compromise must also be submitted (Form MC-351) so that the judge assigned to your case can stamp his or her name in approval if all goes smoothly. There are additional forms and attachments depending on how the settlement funds are to be held/invested for your child (i.e., annuity, blocked account).
Some courts require that medical records also be lodged so that the judge can get a sense of whether the treatment the child received was sufficient with respect to the injury. (The medical records, when submitted, should be clearly marked “Confidential” to protect your child’s privacy.) Other courts have no requirement for medical records and instead focus on calculation of the medical fees and liens. Some courts require that the child attend the hearing together with the Guardian Ad Litem while others find it unnecessary to pull the child from school or other activities. The safest bet is to call the court and check with the clerk after you’ve filed your paperwork to make sure everything is in order and that you understand what is required for your case. If additional documents are necessary, you will be advised; the judge will only make a decision on your child’s settlement after obtaining all necessary paperwork from you.
At the hearing, the judge will ask questions to determine whether the settlement funds being offered to your child are reasonable. There will more than likely be a discussion about the accident itself, the nature of the injury, treatment received, temporary and permanent effects on your child, and most importantly, factors that support the minor’s claim being mature enough to settle. Some judges dive deep into the details of the accident and suffering that followed, while others spend time inquiring into areas such as why funds will be deposited into an annuity instead of a blocked account. Understand your case and be prepared to answer questions about it all!
If you or your minor has been hurt and you want to pursue a personal injury lawsuit, it’s good to know what to expect. All cases will be different, depending on the specific details. While understanding the process, you can easily comprehend how important a good lawyer is to help with your case. Get the expertise of a skilled PI attorney. A Walton Law attorney is ready to discuss your case. Contact us today.