If a minor is injured in a medical malpractice case who receives settlement money, the parent or the child?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Oct 30, 2020

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In many states, in order for a minor (anyone under the age of 18) to file a claim in court, the claim must be filed through a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL, for short). The Guardian Ad Litem, usually one of the minor’s parents, will file suit on behalf of the child and must act for the child’s benefit. All settlements of a minor’s personal injury claim must be approved by a Judge in order for the settlement to be valid.

When a medical malpractice case is settled on behalf of an injured child, first the debts are paid to the people who rendered services or advanced money to the child. This group of beneficiaries usually includes the doctors, the child’s lawyer, the insurance company and the parents. For example, a child’s parents can request reimbursement for their out-of-pocket payments to doctors.

The proceeds of the settlement, after litigation expenses, are normally paid into the court for the use and benefit of the child. When the settlement involves an annuity, it is referred to as a structured settlement. Instead of a settlement being paid in a lump sum, payments are made on a regular basis over the lifetime of the child. When the child reaches adulthood, the court hands over the remaining amount to the child. Parents can ask the court for more money to use for the benefit of their injured child, but the court does not often agree to do this. You may, however, live in a state where the remainder of the settlement money can be paid to you for the benefit of your child.

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