Recently, I concluded a case against a Chicago-area day care facility whose name alone suggests elite care and that it is the best of the best.
Unfortunately for my client J, who was two years old at the time, the name and reputation did not reflect reality.
A day care instructor sharply grabbed J by the arm, temporarily dislocating his arm at the shoulder. While J was in a lot of pain, he was fortunate to be very young and endowed with a short memory and ultra-flexible joint. After a brief trip to the children’s hospital and his pediatrician, he was fine and back to normal within a few weeks.
It may seem like a simple case to settle. Video recorded the day care worker grabbing the two-year-old child roughly and causing the injury. In a sense, once I presented all the medical records and bills with my demand, resolving the case was rather easy. We agreed on an amount of money and that was it.
In all personal injury cases involving a minor (anyone under 18 is a minor), the court must approve the settlement. In addition, the minor child’s funds must be set aside in a federally-insured, interest-bearing account until the minor turns 18.
In cases where a minor receives less than $10,000 net, only one judge must approve the settlement. In cases where a minor receives more than $10,000, a probate estate must be set up. Both a probate judge and the judge handling the injury portion of the case must approve the settlement.
That’s right, in order to get settlement of a minor’s claim approved, it costs upwards of $700 or more in court fees. The plaintiff’s lawyer also must appear in court, often with the parents, at least once and maybe twice.
This settlement was relatively small, with the minor receiving less than $10,000. After I reached agreement with the insurance adjuster, I filed a lawsuit against the day care facility, so that a judge could approve the settlement. Then I filed a petition asking the assigned judge to approve the settlement.
Normally, the whole process would be a bigger hassle than it was in this case. In pre-Covid times, I would appear before the judge with the minor’s parents. Some judges take this process seriously and actually question the parents or take testimony. Others treat settlement approval as a pro forma process of merely ensuring the paperwork is accurate.
With the courts closed to in-person hearings for civil matters, this case was a bit different.
The new procedure was simple. I emailed my petition and proposed order to the judge and clerk. The proposed order set forth attorney’s fees, advanced court costs for reimbursement, and a provision for the remainder to be held in a restricted account until the minor turns 18. The court reviewed it and advised me to file it electronically, then forward that document to them again by email.
Shortly thereafter, I had an approved order. The Covid-19 pandemic forced our court system to be more efficient.
Because, unfortunately, there are parents who try to steal or spend their own children’s money.
I have seen situations where parents attempted to withdraw funds from restricted accounts. Fortunately, courts and banks take these matters seriously and flag all inappropriate attempts by parents to take what rightly belongs to the minor.
My client’s parents are beyond reproach. They are among the 99% of parents who would never dream of taking their child’s settlement funds. The courts, however, remain vigilant to ensure that the few who consider trying are never able to accomplish the task.
If you or your minor child suffer injuries, get medical treatment immediately. If someone else may be responsible for the injury, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer.
If you have questions about an injury, contact Chicago personal injury attorney Stephen L. Hoffman for a free consultation at (773) 944-9737. Stephen has nearly 30 years of legal experience and has collected millions of dollars for his clients. He is listed as a SuperLawyer, has a 10.0 rating on Avvo, and is BBB A+ accredited. He is also an Executive Level Member of the Lincoln Square Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce.
Stephen handles personal injury claims on a contingency fee basis, which means you don’t pay anything upfront. He only gets paid if you do. Don’t wait another day, contact Stephen now.