When your child is negligently injured, whether it’s by someone at a daycare or other caregiving facility you trusted, by a nanny or babysitter, or if they suffered an injury at school or on an ill-kept playground, your protective instincts will kick in. Your first priority will be getting your child the medical care they need, and then your second priority will likely be to hold the negligent party responsible for what happened and pursue action against them.
Though it may not be your third or even your fourth, fifth, or sixth priority to worry about how much money you might potentially receive in light of your child being severely injured, it’s still an important factor that will come up during and after the personal injury case. And then, you might have questions about how that settlement amount actually works when it comes to receiving, accessing, and using the money awarded.
Q: Can a minor receive settlement money?
A: Absolutely! Under the law, a minor is anyone who is under 18 years of age, but that doesn’t make them ineligible to receive settlement money. In fact, in a child negligence injury case (which operates differently from an adult personal injury case), any money awarded is awarded directly to the victim, which is the child. Even though the parent must act as the legal guardian representative, called a next friend, for the minor child during any case proceedings, any money awarded technically belongs to the child alone.
Q: Will my child be allowed to access and use their settlement money however they want freely?
A: Absolutely not. A minor is still a minor, after all, and though they can be given a potentially large settlement amount, there are rules and laws in place to help minors protect any such money they receive, rather than risk the consequences of them not being knowledgeable about what to do with it at such a young age.
Q: Where does from a child’s settlement go?
A: Often, the court or insurance company will require that the settlement money be directly deposited into some kind of bank account or investment fund where it cannot be disturbed. These types of accounts are called “restricted accounts,” and they are specifically meant to be used to house money that is prohibited from being disturbed by almost anyone in any way, even by the bank itself, without an official court order saying otherwise.
Q: Can I access or use my child’s settlement money?
A: “Access” and “use” are two importantly different terms to understand in this situation. As the parent, there are some cases in which you may at least be granted permission to access your child’s blocked account, but it will be for informational purposes only, such as to verify that the account is still in good standing. For the most part, you will not be permitted to access any of the actual money in your child’s account to withdraw or spend.
Q: Can I use my child’s settlement money to pay medical bills?
A: Most courts do not allow the parents of a minor negligence injury victim to use even a portion of their child’s settlement amount for their own expense, even if the claim is that they will be used in the best interest of the child or their family. This is done to protect the minor and their rights to the money they were awarded.
There may be some very rare cases where a court will grant permission to the parents to withdraw and use a very specified amount of the settlement if it is deemed an absolute necessity for the wellbeing of the child. Even so, such court orders are rare to obtain because it’s extremely difficult to regulate what a parent actually uses the money for once they get their hands on it. So it’s best to assume that you will not be granted permission to use any of your child’s settlement amount at any time and will instead need to find alternative options to cover your expenses as needed.
Q: Can my child give me permission to use their settlement money?
A: As a minor, your child cannot legally make that decision. Even if your child stands in front of a judge and tells them that they would like their parents to be given even a fraction of the money awarded to them, the judge cannot legally take that statement at face value because it has no legal standing in a court of law. A person must be 18 years or older for such legal and monetary decisions to hold weight in the case of deciding what they want to do with a settlement.
Q: When can my child access and use their settlement money?
A: Once your child turns 18, the legal age of adulthood, they may opt to receive the funds inside the blocked account. They would typically directly request these funds from the bank themselves after they turn 18, at which time the bank will be required to issue payment to them in full. And this can usually be done without a court order, as long as the child is officially no longer considered a minor.
Q: Will my adult child have any restrictions on using their settlement money once they can access it?
A: Once your adult child has requested and withdrawn their money from the blocked account, they are free to do whatever they please with it. They can move it to another account, put it into savings or investments, or even spend it however they choose. They are not legally obligated to share their settlement amount with anyone else at any point in time, parents and other family members or friends included. They can certainly choose to gift any portion of the amount to anyone they might like or spend it on behalf of another person, but they have no legal obligation to do so if they do not want to.