Cases involving children are handled with varied nuances that differ from that of a case involving an adult. However, children who are injured are entitled to the same compensation and remedies for pain and suffering as adults. In addition to understanding that children suffer from trauma and pain much differently than adults, it is important to understand the differences between adult and child cases.
Authority to Bring a Case
In most cases, any adult has the right to bring a cause of action on their own behalf. I say most cases because some adults, through illness for instance, lose their capacity to bring a cause of action on their own behalf or voluntarily relinquish this right. In these situations, the cause of action must be brought by a legal guardian. Similarly, when a child is injured, it is up to an adult, typically the child’s parent, legal guardian or other authorized adult, to raise a claim on their behalf.
In some states, it is required that an adult bringing a claim on behalf of a child be pre-approved to do so by a judge. Florida is different than some other states in that the laws are less restrictive in granting parents the liberty to bring a claim on behalf of a minor child. Nevertheless, your attorney should have a clear understanding of the laws in Florida. Along with these differences, there are several things to be aware of when bringing a claim on behalf of an injured child.
In Florida, pre-approval is not required for parents or legal guardians to bring a personal injury claim on behalf of their children. Parents, jointly, are the natural guardians of their minor child, whether natural or adopted. They are given the statutory right as natural guardians to bring a cause of action on behalf of that minor child and settle any claim, subject to court approval in certain cases, stemming from an injury sustained by that minor child.
Typically parents and legal guardians have the right to simply hire private counsel to represent their child’s interests in court; however, depending on the amount of the actual proposed settlement, court approval and the appointment of a guardian ad litem may be required.
Guardian Ad Litem
Courts possess the authority to appoint a guardian ad litem to protect a minor child’s interest at any time. A guardian ad litem is simply a court appointed “guardian” who represents the interests of the child in the court system. You may wonder: why the need for a guardian ad litem if there are parents involved? Aren’t the parents representing the best interests of the child? The sad reality is that not all parents truly have their own child’s best interest in mind.
Therefore, in a personal injury case involving a minor child where a case involves a gross settlement amount to compensate for the child’s injury that is equal to or exceeds $15,000, the court may appoint a guardian ad litem to represent the minor child. If the gross amount exceeds $50,000, the court shall appoint a guardian ad litem.
As you can see, depending of the amount of the settlement, a guardian ad litem may be appointed by the court to assist in your case in addition to your Orlando personal injury attorney. I have personally served as a guardian ad litem and understand the duties and responsibilities.
When reaching a settlement, courts consider the best interest of the child as a key element. Once funds are procured as the result of a settlement, the funds are typically not disbursed to the parents directly. Usually, the funds are placed in a guardianship account with the court or will be paid out to the minor child in the form of an annuity when they reach the age of 18.
If your child has been injured in any way, you are probably eager to see justice done and be compensated for your child’s medical expenses, pain and suffering. An Orlando personal injury lawyer at Todd Miner Law can help. Contact us today for a free consultation.