Whenever a person gets involved in an auto accident and sustains injuries, they will likely try to find out who is at fault for the accident, and file a claim to obtain compensation. However, this process is very different when the injured person is a minor instead of an adult. Can a child who is injured in a car crash obtain compensation for their injuries and losses? The Charlotte car accident lawyers at Dewey, Ramsay, & Hunt explain more about these types of cases, or “minor settlements,” in the state of North Carolina.
What is a Minor Settlement?
A minor settlement refers to the compensation a minor can obtain as a result of injuries, such as head injuries or spinal cord injuries, suffered in an accident. Under North Carolina law, a minor is any person under the age of 18, who lacks the capacity to sue or be sued. However, despite this restriction, a minor can still potentially obtain compensation for his or her injuries. While a minor does not have the ability to sue, the court provides him or her with the means to do so. In the state of North Carolina, a minor can file a claim through a general guardian, a testamentary guardian, or Guardian ad litem (GAL).
A general guardian is a person responsible for a child’s wellbeing. Additionally, the general guardian is responsible for keeping and controlling the ward’s estate and overall person. The “ward” is the person for whom the guardian is responsible.
A testamentary guardian is a person named in a will who will act as the guardian of the designated person.
A GAL is a court-appointed person who will be in charge of investigating and determining potential solutions, according to the child’s best interests. Generally, a GAL can be a personal injury lawyer, a family member, a volunteer, or other court-appointed people.
Many minor settlements are granted in personal injury cases involving negligence. A negligent person is an individual who fails to exercise the level of care a prudent and reasonable person would under the same or similar circumstances. Therefore, if the negligent actions or omissions (failures to act) by third parties caused injuries to the minor, he or she can file a claim through his or her representative.
In personal injury cases, North Carolina generally evaluates whether the plaintiff contributed to causing their own injuries. However, the state also categorizes minors by age groups, some of which are excluded from this general rule. These groups are minors under the age of seven, children from seven to 14 years old, and minors from 14 to 18 years old. Children under 7 are absolutely incapable of engaging in contributory negligence. Children aged 7 to 14 are presumed incapable of contributory negligence. However, minors in the last category (14 to 18 years old) can be found at fault for their own injuries.
Minor Settlement Procedures in North Carolina
The court must approve every minor settlement, whether an agreement happened before or after filing a lawsuit. If the parties reached an agreement after filing a claim, the minor’s representative – usually a GAL – must file a Petition of Approval for a Minor’s Settlement to obtain the judge’s approval. If the parties involved reach an agreement before a suit is filed, they will undergo a special proceeding where a judge will grant the settlement, according to state law. Moreover, the parties can also file a “friendly” civil action by submitting a Summons and Complaint with the Superior Court or District Court. Keep in mind, the court must approve all minor settlements since they will consider the best interest of the child above everything else.
Once the court approves the settlement, the minor’s compensation will be kept in a trust until he or she reaches the legal age of 18, or it will be paid out through a structured settlement. An experienced bicycle accident attorney can help you navigate the minor settlement process in North Carolina.
Charlotte Personal Injury Lawyers Handling Minor Settlement Claims
If your child was injured in a car wreck, bus accident, bicycle crash, or truck accident, we may be able to help. The skilled and knowledgeable Charlotte personal injury attorneys at Dewey, Ramsay, & Hunt can help you obtain the compensation your child deserves. To learn more about your potential claim in a free, confidential consultation, call our law offices today at (704) 490-4023, or contact us online.