There are few things more terrifying than when your child is seriously injured in an accident. When that accident is caused by someone else’s negligence, the parents can and should file a lawsuit for their child to recover the damages that their child is entitled to receive.
In this article, we will briefly review when a parent can file a lawsuit for their child in SC, including:
- Common types of lawsuits parents file for their children,
- When a parent can be reimbursed for medical expenses paid on behalf of their child,
- When a child can sue their parent for negligence, and
- The procedure for minor settlements in SC.
A Parent can File a Lawsuit for Their Child in SC
Personal injury claims for children are procedurally different than those for adults, although the rules of negligence and the types of damages available are usually similar (with some exceptions, like the “attractive nuisance” rule that may apply to trespassing children who are injured in a swimming pool, playground, or other unsafe areas.
Because a person who is younger than 18 years of age cannot file their own lawsuit, their parent or guardian will usually file the lawsuit for them, subject to special rules that are designed to protect a minor child’s settlement until they are 18 years of age.
Common lawsuits that parents file on behalf of children include:
- Motor vehicle accidents,
- Swimming pool, drowning, trampoline park, or amusement park injuries,
- Accidents suffered at daycare or school, and
- Dog bites or other animal attacks.
Can Parents Receive Compensation for Medical Bills Paid on Behalf of a Child?
In some cases, the parent may choose to file a lawsuit on behalf of 1) themselves, to recover damages for medical expenses and other costs the parents have paid out of pocket, and 2) the child, for pain and suffering resulting from the accident.
Does a Child Have to Wait Until They are 18 to File a Lawsuit?
Because an injured minor child is not a legal adult, they are not permitted to file lawsuits on their own behalf until they are 18 years of age; therefore, the parent or guardian ordinarily must file the lawsuit for them.
Minor children have another option, however. Regardless of the statute of limitation (usually three years for personal injury claims in SC), the child has one year from the date they turn 18 to file the lawsuit on their own behalf.
For example, if a four-year-old child is injured in an automobile accident, but their parents choose not to file a lawsuit to recover damages that the child is entitled to receive, the child can still choose to file the lawsuit 14 years later (subject to the availability of evidence) after they turn 18.
Can a Parent Sue Themselves in a Lawsuit for Their Child?
Under SC Code § 15-5-210, A minor child can sue their parent for personal injuries from an auto accident in SC.
This means that, if a parent caused the accident that resulted in injuries to their child, the parent can sue themselves on behalf of the child, but the court will also appoint a guardian ad litem to look out for the child’s best interest.
Minor Settlements in SC
SC Code § 16-5-433 sets out the procedure for settlements of personal injury claims on behalf of minor children in SC.
The amount of the claim determines the required procedure and safeguards. “Claim” means the actual amount that the minor will receive from their settlement after payment of all expenses and reimbursements like:
- Attorney fees,
- Litigation expenses and court costs,
- Expert witness fees,
- Medicaid liens,
- Medical bills, and
- Reimbursement to parents or guardians.
If the Child Receives More than $25,000
When a parent files a lawsuit for their child, and the child will receive more than $25,000 from their settlement, the circuit court (Court of Common Pleas) has exclusive jurisdiction and must approve the settlement before it can be finalized.
How is the child’s money kept safe until they reach 18 years of age?
Three methods may be approved by the court:
- Conservatorship: A conservator can be appointed by the probate court to safeguard and manage the child’s money until the child reaches the age of 18, and the conservator must file a yearly report with the probate court accounting for the money. In many cases, a parent or guardian can serve as the conservator.
- Structured settlement: The child’s recovery can be placed into an annuity that pays the amount of the settlement plus interest to the child over time, for example, in yearly payments once the child reaches the age of 18. If there is a structured settlement, it is not necessary to appoint a conservator.
- Special restricted account: In some cases, the court may permit you to place the child’s proceeds into a special restricted account where no one can withdraw the funds until the child turns 18, at which time the child becomes the sole account holder and can withdraw the funds.
If the Child Receives Less than $25,000
If the child will receive less than $25,000 from the minor settlement, the circuit court and the probate court have concurrent jurisdiction – either court can approve the settlement.
If a conservator has been appointed in the probate court, there is no requirement for court approval of the minor settlement. If no conservator has been appointed, then the guardian or the child’s guardian ad litem must seek approval in either the circuit court or probate court.
If the Child Receives Less than $2500
If the child will receive less than $2500 from the minor settlement, there is no need for court approval and it is not necessary to appoint a conservator, although the parents or guardian still have a duty to safeguard the child’s funds until they turn 18.
Questions About Filing a Lawsuit for Your Minor Child?
The Myrtle Beach personal injury lawyers at Coastal Law accept most types of SC personal injury cases, including auto accidents, motorcycle crashes, product liability, slip and fall cases, wrongful death lawsuits, and minor settlements on behalf of children.
Ready to speak with a personal injury attorney? Contact Coastal Law to discuss your case. Call us at 843-488-5000 for a free consultation or use our online form.