A parent’s first concern when their child is injured is making sure that the child gets better. Health is of the utmost an importance in a parent’s mind. Minor injuries are often ignored, such as spraining a leg while playing soccer. But if a child or teen is wounded by a dog bite, breaks a leg at the amusement park or suffers a serious back injury, it may be time to contact a lawyer.
Injuries that could have been prevented are the ones where hiring an attorney may be in the best interest of the parent and child.
If a “duty of care” is owed, it may be possible to file a personal injury claim or lawsuit against an insurance company on behalf of the minor. Examples of when duty of care would be owed include:
- Drunk driver hits a child on a bike or in a car
- Dog owner allows dog off leash at the park leading to significant dog bites
- Theme park fails to maintain zipline, leading to an injury
The negligent party had a duty of care to protect others in all of these cases, and a personal injury claim can be filed. Parents can pursue damages from insurers, and a judge will appoint an ad litem.
What Is an Ad Litem?
An ad litem is a lawyer, appointed by the judge, who represents the best interest of the child. The lawyer will make recommendations on how best to manage the monetary award in a personal injury case.
The ad litem will:
- Review all bills for treatment, surgery and pain management required for the child’s recovery. The ad litem may ask the judge to have the providers reduce these expenses if they’re deemed excessive.
- Review the settlement and case itself. The ad litem may find that the settlement was too low or that the attorney’s fees were too high. In both cases, the ad litem can request that the judge either have the case revisited or ask that the attorney fees be reduced.
- Recommend how the settlement award should be handled. The settlement may be put into an annuity or be held in the court’s registry. Disbursements are often after the child becomes of legal age to make financial decisions.
The ad litem is responsible for looking over all of the work of the personal injury or auto wreck lawyer, reviewing bills and ensuring that the award given to the child is in the best interest of the child.
When money is put into an annuity or similar, it is further protected from others. The child, too young to make his/her own financial decisions, will not have access to the funds until reaching 18 years of age or older.
The ad litem will have no connection to the personal injury case and is often seen as a formality because, in most cases, they will approve the agreement.
Fund Usage is Meant for the Benefit of the Child Only
A major concern for parents, especially if they’re divorced, is that the opposing parent will try to hire a personal injury lawyer to benefit personally from the lawsuit. Texas law requires that any settlement money for a child be put into a trust that is meant for the child’s benefit only.
Mom or dad cannot choose to take money out of the trust and use it for their own purposes.
Typically, the funds are released for:
- College tuition
- Trade school education
Putting funds in a trust allows the funds to stay secure throughout a child’s life until they’re old enough to access the money, usually 18 or older.
An ad litem is an important part of your child’s injury case and ensures that a child receives a settlement that is in his or her best interest. While a lot of parents and legal experts view the ad litem as a “formality,” there are times when they can ask for a higher settlement and help reduce unwarranted medical or attorney costs.
The ad litem also protects the opposing party by ensuring that the child cannot bring another suit against the individual in the future. Otherwise, the child may be able to claim that the settlement was not satisfactory. The third-party, with no personal interest in the case, reduces this risk for the defense.