Legal claims involving children are often subject to specific legal considerations, something a Volusia County accident attorney will know well. For example, Florida law recognizes that children often fail to comprehend danger. With that consideration, our law places a higher standard of care on motorists who know or have reason to know that children are in the area in which they are driving. Florida law also recognizes that the one who undertakes the duty to supervise a child, whether at school, a day care center, or at a babysitter’s home, has a duty to protect that child from harm.
Florida allows a cause of action for an “attractive nuisance”. An “attractive nuisance” is a condition that exists on a person’s property which is unreasonably dangerous to children but, by its very nature, is likely to attract their attention. A common example is a construction site. Children are often drawn to a construction site to play, unaware of the hidden dangers that lie there. Landowners have a legal duty to minimize the risk to children attracted to their property because of a dangerous condition existing there, which is something a Volusia County accident attorney can help identify.
Although children have the same legal rights as adults under Florida negligence law, claims on their behalf are subject specific statutory and procedural considerations that a Volusia County accident attorney can explain to you. Parents have the right to settle claims on behalf of their minor children, without court approval, if the amount of the settlement is less than $5,000. Florida law specifically requires the settlement of a minor’s claim in excess of $5,000 be approved by a circuit court judge. This judicial review ensures the proposed settlement is in the best interest of the child. Depending on the amount of the settlement, the court may also appoint a guardian for the property the minor will receive when the case is resolved. If the potential settlement is $25,000 or more, the court must appoint an independent attorney ad litem to determine if the settlement is in the best interest of the child.
In cases settled for more than $5,000, the law requires that any money a minor receives must be held in trust on their behalf. Frequently this is accomplished by placing the funds into a specially restricted bank account where no money can be withdrawn without prior court authorization. This insures the child’s money will only be used on their behalf. The reason for a guardianship is to protect the money from bad investments, expenditures unrelated to the minor’s health and well being, and to generally preserve the minor’s property until they reach the age of 18 or beyond. Each year, the guardian must file a report with the court detailing the value of the minor’s assets and listing all expenditures made with the minor’s money for that calendar year.
Sometimes a “structured settlement” is used when resolving a minor’s claim. A “structured settlement” is an annuity purchased by an insurance company. It is an investment that grows tax free over time. When the minor becomes an adult or is emancipated, the structured settlement makes periodic payments to the former minor. Settlements of this nature can be structured in any conceivable way. For example, it may pay a certain amount every year for the rest of the former minor’s life. Or, it can pay certain lump sum amounts every 5 years for a number of years. Structured settlements can be used to finance a college education by providing payments each year the child attends college.
These are just an example of the many special laws that apply to claims involving children. We would be happy to assist you in this very delicate area of the law.