No parent ever wants to experience his or her child being seriously injured because of someone's negligence. Should you have to pursue an insurance claim or a lawsuit on behalf of your child, Georgia has some special rules governing how personal injury cases involving minor victims (children under the age of 18) are settled.
When a minor child is injured and someone is at fault, a personal injury attorney will typically send the at-fault party and/or his insurance company a demand letter in an attempt to settle the claim. If a fair settlement is not reached through a demand letter and negotiations, or when circumstances such as time considerations dictate, a personal injury lawyer will file a lawsuit (see the prior post “Filing a Lawsuit on Behalf of a Minor Child in Georgia” for more info on who can file a lawsuit on behalf of a minor in Georgia). What happens in Georgia cases involving injured minors when a settlement is reached either before or after the filing of a lawsuit?
This blog post answers the question of what happens in the event a personal injury settlement is reached on behalf of a minor child in Georgia.
In a typical case when a settlement is agreed upon the insurance company and/or the defendant will send a release to the plaintiff. By signing the release the plaintiff agrees to settle the case in accordance with the financial payment terms and to release the defendant from further liability. When a minor is the plaintiff, however, the law does not always allow for such a simple process. The law differs when minors are involved based on the amount of the settlement.
It is important in reading below to understand that the law in Georgia defines “gross settlement” as “the present value of all amounts paid or to be paid in settlement of the claim, including cash, medical expenses, expenses of litigation, attorney's fees, and any amounts paid to purchase an annuity or other similar financial arrangement.” O.C.G.A. § 29-3-3 (a). When speaking of the value of settlements below I am speaking in terms of “gross settlement” as defined by Georgia law and which includes all of the items listed above.
When the gross settlement is more than $15,000.00:
All personal injury settlements on behalf of a minor in Georgia in which the gross settlement amount is more than $15,000.00 require court approval to finalize the agreement regardless of whether a lawsuit has been filed. O.C.G.A. §§ 29-3-3 (d) and (e). Typically, court approval will be petitioned for in probate court in cases in which no lawsuit has been filed, and, in cases in which a lawsuit has been filed, it must be done in the court where the lawsuit is pending. Id.
In many cases involving settlements on behalf of minors in which the amount is $15,000.00 or more, there must be a conservator in place before any court will approve the settlement.
When a conservator is required: When the gross settlement is for $15,000.00 or more and when subtracting out attorney's fees, expenses of litigation, and medical expenses which shall be paid from the settlement proceeds, the present value of amounts to be received by the minor after reaching the age of majority (18) is still $15,000.00 or more, then a conservator must be in place before any court will approve the settlement. O.C.G.A. § 29-3-3 (g). The guardian of the minor must file a petition in probate court to become conservator and then once appointed as conservator he or she asks the appropriate court (probate if no lawsuit was filed, the court where the lawsuit is pending if a lawsuit was filed) to approve the terms of the settlement.
When a conservator is not required: In cases in which the gross settlement is for $15,000.00 or more and when subtracting out attorney's fees, expenses of litigation, and medical expenses which shall be paid from the settlement proceeds, the present value of amounts to be received by the minor after reaching the age of majority (18) comes out to less than $15,000.00, then no conservator is required. O.C.G.A. § 29-3-3 (f). In this scenario the guardian may petition the appropriate court (probate if no lawsuit was filed, the court where the lawsuit is pending if a lawsuit was filed) to approve the terms of the settlement without first becoming a conservator.
When the gross settlement is $15,000.00 or less:
When a gross settlement has been reached for personal injuries to a minor and the amount is $15,000.00 or less, Georgia law allows the guardian of a minor to settle the claim withoutfirst becoming a conservator and without the approval of any court. O.C.G.A. § 29-3-3 (c).
Personal injury cases involving injured minors in Georgia can be complex and an attorney experienced in navigating through both the traditional litigation process as well as the probate court process is a necessity. Attorney Richard Armond is experienced in handling personal injury cases on behalf of minors in Georgia.
If you are the parent or guardian of a minor who was injured or killed as a result of someone's negligence, please contact Gwinnett County based personal injury lawyer Richard Armond at (678) 661-9585 for a free consultation.
Attorney Richard Armond of The Armond Firm, LLC, handles serious personal injury and wrongful death cases throughout metro Atlanta and the State of Georgia. He is licensed to practice law by the State Bar of Georgia and is based in Lawrenceville, one mile down the road from the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center. Call him today for a free consultation at (678) 661-9585. The information above is for informational purposes only as of the date of publication and should not be relied upon as legal advice, nor does the reading of it form an attorney-client relationship. Always consult directly with an attorney for legal advice.