ASKED AND ANSWERED
By: Janeen Koch
This is where we answer legal questions commonly posed to us by our insurance and corporate clients. If you have any burning questions that need quick answers, or if you have any suggestions for questions in future newsletters, please e- mail Janeen at: [email protected].
This edition’s subject: Minor settlements
Q: Does a settlement with a minor have to be court approved?
A: If you want the settlement to be binding, then yes, it must be court approved. In Virginia, a minor is legally incapable of entering into a binding contract, which includes a settlement. So if the settlement is substantial, or if you think the circumstances could change and a future claim could be made, it is prudent to have the settlement court approved. Remember that the statute of limitations for a personal injury claim does not run until the minor is 20 years old, so you never know what could happen in the future. However, if the injuries are minor, the settlement is small, and there is no concern that a future claim will be made, then the expense of obtaining court approval may not be justified.
There is no minimum amount that requires court approval. However, §8.01-606 of the Code of Virginia provides that for payments of $50,000 or less, the court may permit the payment to be made to “any person deemed by the court capable of properly handling it, to be used solely for the education, maintenance and support of the person under a disability” rather than being paid into the Court to be held until the minor turns 18.
Q: Does the parent of an injured minor have a separate claim for medical expenses?
A: For causes of action that accrued prior to July 1, 2013, a parent may bring a separate action against the tortfeasor for medical expenses incurred for curing or attempting to cure the infant as a result of personal injury.
For causes of action that accrued on or after July 1, 2013, the past and future medical expenses are damages recoverable by the infant. Any parent or guardian who has paid for or is personally obligated to pay for the medical expenses, has a lien and right of reimbursement against any recovery by the infant up to the amount the parent or guardian has actually paid or is personally obligated to pay. Court approval of the infant settlement releases the defendant from any claims for past or future medical expenses. §8.01-36 of the Code of Virginia.