Guardian ad Litem for Children in Car Accident Cases
A guardian ad litem is a person assigned to represent a child in various legal cases including automobile accidents in which a child is injured. Ad litem is Latin for “the lawsuit” or “for purposes of legal actions only.” The fundamental benefit of a guardian ad litem is to give a voice to a child in a legal proceeding who, by virtue of his/her age, is unable to do so him/herself.
Thus, a guardian ad litem fulfill two important roles for children in lawsuits: acting as the child’s investigator and reporter, and advocating for what s/he believes are in the child’s best interests. With respect to car accidents, appointing a guardian ad litem for an injured child is particularly important if the child’s parent or guardian is a party to the lawsuit and may not be fully able to advocate for his/her child’s best interests.
Guardian ad litem in South Carolina
Pursuant to the South Carolina code 62-5-407, if the court determines at any time that the interests of a minor are or might be inadequately represented, it may appoint a guardian ad litem for the minor. For minors age 14 and older, the court may consider the minor’s choice. The guardian ad litem may be a layperson or an attorney and may be privately paid or an unpaid volunteer.
Typically in a car accident, a parent is appointed the child’s guardian or conservator as long as the parent’s interest does not conflict with the child’s interest.
What if my child was injured in a car accident?
Whereas a vehicle accident with injuries is particularly worrisome, it becomes even more so when a child is injured. Additionally, there exist several special considerations involved with settlements involving children.
Before agreeing to any settlement, you must know the full extent of any and all damages. With an injury to a child, the child must be done being treated for any medical issues stemming from the accident. Once the child has reached the point of maximum medical improvement, then the amount of future care, if necessary, as well as any pain and suffering the child has already—and will continue to—endured can be determined.
Additionally, you must be aware of whether your health insurance company will require repayment of money spent as a result of the accident and whether a settlement could impact your child’s ability to qualify for future benefits.
Court supervision in settlements
In South Carolina, rules exist to ensure that a child’s settlement is not misspent. Generally, any settlement to a child from a car accident should not be used for the child’s upkeep and maintenance—this is the parent’s responsibility. Any misspending of the child’s settlement money by parents or the conservator can result in criminal charges being filed. In such cases, a guardian ad litem serves to protect the child’s settlement.
If the net settlement to the child is less than $2,500, the parent or guardian neither needs court approval nor a conservator. Any net settlement between $2,500 and $10,000 requires court approval; however, a conservator is not necessary to administer the settlement. If, however, the child’s net settlement is between $10,000 and $25,000, in addition to required court approval, appointment of a conservator is highly recommended. Finally, if the net settlement amount to the child exceeds $25,000, then the court must approve the settlement and a conservator is required. The judge reviewing the settlement has wide discretion to make sure that the guardian or conservator is being responsible with the child’s money. The Judge may require that the money be put in a restricted account and that the guardian or conservator give updates to the Court regarding the use of the money. Many times, when the settlement is large, the guardian, conservator or the Court may elect to have the money put into an annuity that will pay the child when they are an adult.
We can help
If your child was injured in a car accident—or any other type of accident—and needs a guardian ad litem, please contact Venus Poe today at 864.963.0310 or fill out an online case evaluation form. We have offices in Greenville and Fountain Inn, South Carolina to better serve you. Knowing your rights is imperative to ensure you and your loved ones are fully compensated for your injuries and other losses and that your child’s safety and well-being is protected. Also, there is no obligation or charge for our initial consultation to see if we can assist you with your case.
The information you obtain in this article is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should not read this article to propose specific action or address specific circumstances, but only to give you a sense of general principles of law. Application of these general principles to particular circumstances must be done by a lawyer who has spoken to you in confidence, learned all relevant information, and explored various options. Before acting on these general principles, you should hire a lawyer licensed to practice in the jurisdiction in which you may have a case.