Procedures For Underage Settlements In Texas
If your child is injured in Texas, the process will be handled differently than an adult’s. To learn the differences and how a lawyer can help, read here.
In this state, if your child was injured due to the negligence of another, it is important to be aware of how the settlement of a minor is handled much differently an adult’s. This difference is because a minor can’t enter into a legally binding contract. While these types of personal injury claims in Texas can be complex, they need to be handled by an experienced accident attorney.
What Is A Minor Settlement Hearing?
Texas defines a minor as anyone that is younger than eighteen unless they have been legally emancipated. A release among a claimant and an insurance company is considered a contract and minors cannot legally enter into contracts. Because of this, settlements for underage injury victims require hearings in the presence of the judge, which is referred to as a minor settlement hearing.
During a minor settlement hearing, the evidence is presented, allowing the judge to determine if a settlement is in the minor’s best interest and if it should be permitted. This allows the insurance company that is paying the settlement to legally obtain a binding release releasing them of any future liability in the case. Unless the minor’s settlement is small, most insurance companies will ask for a minor settlement hearing.
What To Expect During Your Child’s Injury Case?
Once a settlement between the minor and the insurance company has been reached, the first thing that needs to be done is to file suit unless this was filed prior to the settlement. The attorneys for the insurance company will draft the pleadings for your Edinburg accident lawyer’s signature and approval, as well as pay the cost for filing.
The suit will name the parent as the “next friend of the child” and the Plaintiff. The attorney will then ask the court to appoint an impartial lawyer to represent the minor. This impartial lawyer is referred to as attorney ad litem and their job is to make sure that the settlement is fair, and that the money will be solely used for the child’s benefit.
How An Attorney Ad Litem Works With You?
After attorney ad litem is appointed, your lawyer needs to send them all of the information that is needed to assess the settlement. This includes hospital paperwork, billing records, incident reports, and a settlement sheet that details the lawyer fees, additional legal expenses, and medical expenses that the settlement will pay for.
This settlement sheet can also include the insurance companies’ proof of limits from the reduction agreements that involve any medical liens or subrogation. Lastly, your injury lawyer will provide the ad litem with personal information including the minor’s birth date, social security number, and the parent’s contact information so that the ad litem can arrange a meeting the minor and yourself. Your personal injury lawyer will also provide you with information about the ad litem so that you know who will be contacting you.
What Does An Attorney Ad Litem Do?
It is important to note that the ad litem’s job is to ensure that the settlement is in your child’s best interest. In order to determine this, the ad litem will need to meet with you and the child to assess the magnitude of the injuries and if your child has recovered.
If the minor will need to have any additional medical needs in the future, the ad litem will need to determine if the settlement is sufficient enough to adhere to these needs. If not, the ad litem will need to determine if there is proof of not enough limits in the insurance policy, as well as if any other insurance policies will apply to the minor’s case.
Do Parents Get To Keep The Settlement Money?
The financial compensation that your child will receive from the settlement will not be paid to the parent. This money is either placed in the registry of the court or will be used to purchase an annuity, which is commonly referred to as a structured settlement.
How Does Registry Of The Court Work?
One of the biggest differences between injury cases that involve children and those that involve adults is the settlement money for a child must be safely kept for the sole benefit of the minor. But what does putting the money in the registry of the court mean? This means that the money will be deposited in the Clerk’s trust account and these funds will continue to grow by gaining interest pending withdrawal after the eighteenth birthday of the minor.
If low interest rates apply, the funds do not grow that much, however, this is the safest place to house your child’s settlement money. If you decide to place the settlement money in the registry of the court, your lawyer or the ad litem will deposit the money into District Court’s account immediately after they are received.
When this happens, you will be receiving a copy of the deposit’s receipt. When your child becomes 18, all they have to do is go to the clerk’s office and show identification to prove who they are, and they will receive the funds.
How Does An Annuity Work?
The biggest advantage of an annuity, or structured settlement, is that the interest rate is much higher than if you were to place your settlement into the registry of the court. However, there is an up-front fee to purchase the structured settlement, but this fee will eventually be offset by the future gain of the annuity.
While there are plenty of ways to structure an annuity, the most common is the college plan, which will disburse payments to the minor when they become of age and are expected to start college. Any additional payments will coincide with each semester for four years.
Attending The Hearing
Once it is determined where the minor’s settlement funds will be going, it is time for the hearing, which should not take any longer than fifteen minutes. During this hearing, all parties involved will assemble near the Judge’s bench and testimony will be taken.
Typically, the sole testimony given is by the parent, with the first questioning being done by your Edinburg personal injury lawyer, followed by the defense lawyers for the insurance company.
How A Top-Rated Personal Injury Law Firm Can Help You?
When your child is injured, it is important to make sure that you have an honest and aggressive attorney on your side that offers experience handling underage injury claims. A skilled accident lawyer will know how to fight the insurance companies while ensuring that your child receives that maximum compensation for their injuries.