When a minor is injured due to the negligence of others, they may recover in a personal-injury lawsuit. This can include car wrecks, dog bites, assault and battery, and other actions where a minor injured through the acts of others.
In South Carolina, minors do not have the power to resolve a lawsuit on their own. A person, typically a parent, is appointed as the child’s guardian ad litem. They are required to advocate for the best interests of the child and will be involved in the court process to approve the settlement of a personal injury lawsuit.
In South Carolina if a child receives over a certain sum of money, the Circuit Court must approve the agreement to ensure that it is in the child’s best interest. They do this by reviewing the lawsuit, the verified petition requesting approval of the settlement amount, the petition and order appointing the Guardian ad litem, the petition requesting approval of the settlement and the disbursement of attorneys fees and costs related to the settlement.
Typically, the parties have also executed a release, and exchange the settlement check to finalize the agreement.
The judge is required to question the Guardian ad litem regarding the child’s best interest. The judge asked questions regarding guardians understanding about the hearing and the terms and conditions of the agreement. The judge also ensures that the Guardian understands how much of the settlement will go towards attorneys fees, how much will go towards costs, and that the medical bills will be paid out of the settlement.
The judge then questions the guardian about the child’s rights to the legal action. The judge typically makes the guardian aware that by settling the case that the child is waiving his or her right to a jury trial. The judge would ensure that the Guardian believes that the settlement is fair under all circumstances. Once the settlement is approved, neither the guardian nor the child can come back and reopen it. The case has been settled for good. All the costs that are included in the settlement, including medical bills, represent a total of all bills and no other bills can be brought before the court, nor can the insurance company be required to pay the bills. The judge will ask the Guardian if they are completely satisfied with the attorney who represented them. In some cases if the parents are seeking some of the settlement costs they have incurred in bringing the case, the judge may ask them about the costs or review their affidavit regarding the cost they are seeking.
Finally, if the judge believes that the agreement is in the best interest of the child and the parties are knowingly and voluntarily waiving their rights, then the judge will approve the settlement and make it the order of the court. Depending on the amount of the settlement, the party will be issued to the parents, or if the amount exceeds the statutory limit of $10,000 a conservator must be appointed and the check will be issued to the conservator for the child’s benefit, or until the child turns 18 at which time the child receives the funds.
Typically, the court requires that the minor attend the hearing and often the court will question the guardian for the minor about the incident that occurred, including any continuing issues as a result of the accident.