Settling a Personal Injury Claim for a Minor
A minor is legally incapable of making a determination of whether or not to settle a claim. Therefore, a judge of the Superior Court must approve any personal injury settlement on behalf of the minor if the amount is $10,000 or more. This adds time, cost, and complexity to a settlement. However, there is good reason to requiring Court approval.
Arizona has a vested interest in protecting a minor when a settlement is reached. While an attorney may work with the minor’s parents throughout a case, at the end of the day, it is the minor who suffered the injury and the pain and suffering. The Court approval requirement is meant to protect a minor from a settlement that may not be made in that minor’s best interests. The Court is meant to act as an extra layer of protection to avoid the minor being taken advantage of by accepting a low settlement or by funneling the money to other interests.
In addition, any settlement funds going to the minor must be placed in a conservatorship. This means a person must be assigned conservator to look after the funds until the minor reaches the age of eighteen (majority). The funds can be placed in a restricted, interest-bearing account. This account can either be left to accrue interest or can be managed by the conservator. The conservator can be anyone, so long as they meet certain requirements by the Court. Typically, for smaller sums, a parent is assigned to be the conservator. A probate attorney can be hired to manage larger accounts. The conservator must be bonded and must report to the Court annually to ensure that the money is being properly managed. The money can be used for non-essential items. For example, if the minor wants to go to summer camp, the conservator parent can submit a request to the Court to withdraw money for that purpose. If an attorney has been hired to manage the money, that attorney can determine whether the request is reasonable and can disperse the money accordingly without Court approval. The money can’t be used for clothing, shelter, or food, as parents are expected to pay for these essentials.
Settling a minor’s personal injury claim can be complicated and time consuming. However, these safeguards exist to protect the minor’s best interests. The Rockafellow Law Firm has more than forty years of experience with minor’s personal injury claims. We can help guide the minor and parents through the process.