At Kidneigh & Kaufman we have been very successful in handling personal injury matters for minor children who have been injured. Most commonly when a minor gets injured in an accident, it is his or her parent who initiates the filing of a claim and who gives authority to the attorney throughout the settlement process. While a minor’s parent has the authority to settle the minor’s claim, approval is often sought by a probate court as well.
Probate court approval is generally sought at the insistence of the tortfeasor’s insurance company or if the net settlement is $10,000 or more. If this is the situation, the Petitioner’s attorney should file a Petition to Settle Personal Injury Claim and possibly a Petition for Appointment of Conservator as well- although a conservator is not mandatory. It’s important that the Petitioner’s attorney file the documents seeking approval as it would be a conflict of interest for the tortfeasor’s attorney to do so.
The rationale behind seeking probate court approval is to ensure the minor’s settlement funds will be preserved for the minor when he or she reaches the age of 18 or 21 (the age of access varies among probate courts) and is able to access the money. This protects against any misuse of the settlement funds by someone other than the minor. If the probate court approves the settlement then the funds will be placed in a restricted account, often through the court itself. However, in certain situations, the Petitioners may request a certain sum of money be received initially and not placed in the restricted account for payment of past due medical bills, future medical treatment of the minor, or other care that is necessary prior to the age of access. If appropriate, the court may allow this.
For more information regarding seeking court approval for a minor’s settlement, see Colorado Probate Procedure Rule 16.
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