Car Crash Settlements Involving Minors in Florida

Unfortunately, automobile accidents injure a number of children in Florida and throughout the United States each year. In Allen v. Montalvan, a grandmother was killed in a tragic car crash, and her adult daughter, minor son, and three minor grandchildren were hurt to varying degrees when a drunk driver slammed into their vehicle.

The mother hired personal injury lawyers and gave them the authority to prosecute any suit and settle, dismiss, or discontinue the lawsuit. The lawyer sent a letter to the plaintiff’s insurance carrier, asking for the insurance policy coverage information. The insurance policy had limits of $25,000 per person and $50,000 per incident.

The insurance company then mailed a letter to the attorney, globally tendering the policy limits. Two checks were enclosed, as well as a proposed release for each claimant. The release for the decedent was for $25,000. However, due to the uncertainty regarding the allocation of money for the surviving occupants, the insurance company left the amounts blank in the remaining releases. Two years later, the attorney returned the signed releases, accompanied by a letter that said that all the claims with regard to the settlement were released. The consideration on the mother’s release was filled in as $25,000, and the consideration for each of the kids was marked as $0.

Some time later, the mother retained different lawyers and filed a lawsuit on behalf of the minor children, seeking additional damages. The insurance company moved to enforce the settlement by dismissing the claims. The trial court ruled in favor of the defendant, holding that the settlement was binding and that state law did not mandate a different result. The mother appealed.

The appellate court reversed and remanded for further proceedings, stating that the insurance company, in good faith, left the amounts given to each injured party to be determined by the mother and her lawyers. The court further explained that the insurance company and other parties to the settlement had an obligation to make sure the settlement was legally binding. However, the proposed settlement did not comply with F.S. 744.3025(1)(b), Florida Statutes. The statute required the court to “appoint a guardian ad litem to represent the minor’s interest before approving a settlement of a minor’s claim in a case in which the gross settlement involving minor equals or exceeds $50,000.” As a result, the settlement was invalid as to the claims of the children. Thus, the trial court erred by dismissing the children’s complaint based on the agreement.

If you or someone close to you has been injured in a motor vehicle accident, it is important to seek the help and guidance of a Miami car accident attorney who can analyze the facts of your case. At the Law Offices of Robert Dixon, we have many years of experience helping our clients pursue the compensation they deserve for their harm. You can trust that we will answer all your questions and address your concerns along the way. We proudly serve clients throughout South Florida. For more information, feel free to call us at 1-877-499-HURT (4878) or contact us online.

More Blog Posts:

Insurance Company Liable for Florida Insured’s Attorney’s Fees,  South Florida Injury Lawyer Blawg, July 18, 2016

Car Accidents in Miami-Dade County and Throughout Florida, South Florida Injury Lawyer Blawg, July 18, 2016

Florida Appellate Court Highlights Importance of Procedural Rules, South Florida Injury Lawyer Blawg, July 18, 2016

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