What You Need to Know About Injury Claims of Minors in Texas
Written by Greg on March 7, 2016
There is not much more difficult for a parent then dealing with an injury to their child. All of us with children have made the trip to the emergency room when an unfortunate accident occurred. Children get hurt but it is extremely difficult when some third-party through their negligence injures your child.
Personal injury claims of children under the age of 18 within the state of Texas are handled differently from personal injury claims of an adult. Because a minor does not have legal capacity to sue or be sued, the personal injury litigation comes in the form of an adult standing in for the injured minor as “next friend”. Usually this is one or more of the parents of the injured child. However, anyone may stand in as a next friend for an injured child.
If the personal injury claim is settled, the defendant’s counsel usually requires that a hearing takes place in front of the judge in the court with a lawsuit is filed. The court will appoint an attorney to represent the interests of the minor, and advise the judge whether this settlement terms are in the best interest of the minor. The defendant customarily pays the cost of the attorney to represent the minor’s interests at the hearing. This attorney representing the minor is called an “ad litem” and is in addition to the attorney who handled the case on behalf of the injured minor and the family.
When a personal injury claim of a minor is funded and usually takes one of two forms. Either, the money is placed in the registry of the court to be paid to the minor when the minor turns 18, or the settlement funds are used to purchase an insurance policy called an annuity which can be paid out at various times after the child becomes of age. Parents can have substantial input on whether the money is placed in the register the court or an insurance policy is purchased. Annuities have the benefit of being more flexible and payments and do not usually completely fund the money when the minor turns 18.
Based on experience, minors are usually not very good at shepherding their money when they are still teenagers. For this reason, many people choose the annuity route that allows a longer payout after the children become more experienced. Some annuities are set up in order to fund college and provide for monthly payments during the college years. Others can be set up to pay when the child gets older such as when the child is at age 30 or even 40 years old. For larger settlements, it is not uncommon that the benefits become lifetime benefits at specific stages of life.
One area of concern for a lot of parents is what about their individual damages when their child is injured (missed work etc.) Courts in Texas seem to look at the obligation of a parent as one that comes with the territory. Many courts are reluctant to even reimburse the parents for out-of-pocket medical expenses from a child’s settlement. However, how the money is handled is up to the judge in the case. However, liens such as a hospital lien, usually must be paid out of any settlement proceeds.
In short, the settlement funds for an injured minor in the state of Texas will generally belong to the minor and the court takes great effort to protect the child’s interest.
If your child has been seriously injured in an accident that was caused by another such as a car accident, daycare injury or other accident, you should consider contacting an experienced child injury lawyer as soon as possible after the event.
It is also important to document the injuries during the recovery process by photographs or video. Early investigation can sometimes pay dividends when conduct of a third-party are in question regarding causing an accident.