The following is an expert answer given by Florida Auto Accident Lawyer, Joseph M. Maus, and taken from AllExperts.com, a free Q & A service on the internet:
Subject: Child Auto Injury Rights
Question: My friend is an older lady with a 10 year old child. Recently, he and another child were playing outside when a neighbor (and family member of the other child) pulled out of her driveway, backed into my friend’s yard and proceeded to pull forward. As she pulled forward, the two children playfully jumped on the car for a short thrill ride down the dirt road. She got annoyed and rather than stopping to ask the children to get off her vehicle, she sped up. The child (which was her nephew) jumped off. My friend’s child attempted to jump off but slid and she ran over his leg. She never stopped to check on him or anything. When the other child informed my friend, she panicked. He was rushed to the hospital and pins and screws were placed in his leg. It has now been long enough that he is somewhat healed from this injury, but they have not seen a settlement. The other day, they offered a proposal, but the lawyer informed my friend that it “may” have to go in an annuity account? She’s not sure what this is or how it works, but she would like to have the money now to benefit the child. She wants to put the money in an account of his own (locally), but she is not sure about her rights to go about doing so. Could you please give me some advice to pass along to her?
Answer: Your email does not indicate what state you live in. I am a Florida personal injury lawyer specializing in Florida motor vehicle accidents, slip and fall accidents, and Florida workers compensation claims, so I can only advise you what the law is in Florida. You should always consult with an accident attorney in your area to make sure you get an answer based upon the laws of your state.
Most states have laws which control what can be done with the auto accident settlement proceeds for a minor. In Florida motor vehicle accidents, an settlement for a minor must be set aside for the minor. This can be done in a few different ways, but the goal is to ensure that the settlement money is saved and used strictly for the minor’s benefit, and not some other purpose.
One common type of investment used for a minor’s auto accident settlement is to place the money in an annuity. Annuities are designed to be a safe, conservative way to invest the settlement money so that it grows over time, and more importantly, is there for the minor when she/he turns the age of majority (18 in Florida). Most annuities are investments with an insurance company that will take the initial auto accident settlement proceeds, invest them until the child turns 18, then pay the proceeds out over time, i.e. $10,000 per year for years 18-23; $15,000 per year for years 24-29; and a lump sum of a certain amount of money at the age of 30. This is just one example of how the annuity could be paid out, and the amounts the minor receives obviously depends on the amount of the auto accident settlement, and the age of the child. The schedule of how the settlement is paid out at the age of majority can also vary, i.e. it can be paid out in one lump sum at the age of majority, or spread out over just a few years, or spread out over many years.
In Florida motor vehicle accidents, a minor’s settlement has to be approved by a Judge. Most Judges favor annuities as they are safe investments, and guarantee the money is available for the minor when they get older. Also in Florida motor vehicle accidents, before a judge can approve most minor’s settlement, the terms of the settlement must be reviewed by a “guardian ad litem” to ensure the amount and terms of the settlement are fair to the minor.
However, an annuity is not the only way a minor’s auto accident settlement can be used. Many judges will consider placing a portion of the auto accident settlement money into a federally insured bank account to be used for the child’s living and educational expenses. Withdrawing money from such an account usually requires a court order. A judge will scrutinize any withdrawals closely to make sure the money is being used for a legitimate purpose i.e. education, medical care, etc, rather than some expense of the parent or other family member.
You should speak with an accident lawyer in your area to determine how this child’s auto accident settlement proceeds should be invested. There are many factors that should be considered such as the amount of the accident settlement, the age of the child, the child’s general health condition and any special needs he/she may have, and the child’s educational needs. Annuities are a good, safe investment which allows the accident settlement money to grow over time, and be there for the child once he/she reaches an age where they can use the money more wisely. Judges favor the use of an annuity because it puts the money into a safe investment that cannot be misused by the parents or guardian, and ensures a substantial amount of the auto accident settlement proceeds are still available for the child when they reach adulthood.
Should you have any further questions, I recommend contacting an auto accident attorney in your state to discuss the settlement possibilities in detail. Good Luck.
If you need advice about your Florida motor vehicle accidents claim, contact Florida Auto Accident Lawyer Joseph M. Maus, P.A.at 1-866-556-5529, visit his website at www.mauslawfirm.com, or email him today. Attorney Joseph M. Maus handles car accident claims on a contingent basis. This means that unless you recover money for your car accident, you do not owe any fees or costs.