Personal Injury and Minors, Part Two: Civil Cases
When a minor sustains personal injury as a result of someone else’s negligence, a case is brought in civil court. It does not matter if the lawsuit involves an automobile accident, a slip and fall mishap or a school bus accident. Although an adult’s lawsuit may be settled without approval from a judge, all cases involving childhood injuries must be brought before the court.
Who Can Bring the Lawsuit
The law permits the child’s parents or legal guardian to pursue a claim against another for injury. This may involve a trip to the county surrogate’s office to formally appoint a guardian ad litem. The Surrogate’s office looks at the familial relationship to determine who is most appropriate to bring the action.
It is a common assumption that New Jersey lawsuits must be filed within two years of the date of accident. Although this is true in many cases, there are exceptions. For example, claims against public entities require the early filing of a notice of claim. An example of a public entity is a government agency.
The statute of limitations for lawsuits involving minors is more expansive. Generally speaking, it is two years subsequent to the eighteen birthday of the injured child. This gives the minor the ability to pursue their own case. However, many times it is inappropriate to wait for this time period. It is important to speak with a skilled attorney as soon as possible. It is much easier to prove a case when the information is readily available.
Most personal injury cases settle rather than undergo the expense and time of a trial. However, all cases involving minors require judicial approval. A judge is required to look at the case’s liability and the child’s medical records. The insurance company cannot pay out on a personal injury case for a minor without this step. This hearing is called to a “friendly hearing.” Bottom line, the judge decides if the proposed settlement is in the best interests of the child.
What Happens to the Money Owed to the Minor
The law is very protective of money recovered on behalf of minors. In many cases, the money must be deposited in an account with the county Surrogate. The funds will gain interest and made available to the minor after their eighteenth birthday.
In some circumstances, the Surrogate may allow the guardian ad litem to withdraw money from the account held for the minor child. Applications for withdrawal are only considered for the health, education or welfare of the minor.
If your child was injured in any type of accident, it is crucial that you have a clear understanding of the steps involved in pursuing a claim. The Law Office of Anthony Carbone has practiced personal injury law for more than two decades. Contact us to understand your legal options in this type of case.