In Ohio, children injured in events such as car accidents or dog bites have the same rights and options to seek compensation as adults. However, Ohio has specific laws about how proceeds from a personal injury settlement are handled when minors are involved. Because children technically do not have the legal capacity to enter into contracts, settlements must go through the court system to ensure they are in the minor’s best interest. In short, all settlements for injuries sustained by a minor must be approved by a judge. There are no exceptions, and the size of the settlement does not matter.
In some cases, a guardianship must be set up depending on the amount of the settlement. If the net amount of the settlement exceeds $25,000, the Probate Court will require a guardianship to be established. This means that a guardianship will be required if the amount paid to the minor from the total settlement will be $25,000 or more. Typically those funds are paid into a custodial account held in a local bank and the funds cannot be paid to the child without approval by the Probate Court. The guardian can be the minor’s parent or another individual. Again, minor settlement statutes apply to all settlements (even if no lawsuit is actually filed) and can be complex. Under Ohio civil procedure laws, parents, as legal guardians, can file legal claims on behalf of their children as well.
Another major difference for personal injury claims involving children is the expanded time frame for filing a personal injury claim. Statutes of limitations — which exist in every state — give accident victims a specific and limited window of time to file a claim following an accident. Adults typically have two years to file a claim (Ohio Revised Code Section 2305.10). Minors are entitled to the same two years, but the window of time does not start until they reach age 18. This delay is known as “tolling” (Ohio Revised Code Section 2305.16). An easy way to look at it is that a lawsuit must be filed before the minor’s 20th birthday. Of course, an insurance claim can be opened before the minor turns 18 if a parent or legal guardian files on their behalf. It is always ideal to file a claim quickly after an accident, instead of waiting 10 to 15 years. The more time that goes by after an accident, the more difficult it is to gather witness recollections and evidence.
If your child has been injured in a vehicle accident caused by another driver’s negligence, contact GBM Law to discuss your potential case. We have more than 30 years of experience representing individuals and families in Ohio. Our dedicated and experienced lawyers fight for full and fair compensation for our clients, no matter how young or how old. Contact us today to schedule a free and confidential consultation.