Minor Settlements in North Kansas City

Missouri law provides that only adults of legal age with the requisite mental capacity can bring injury lawsuits and enter into settlement agreements. When a child has a legal claim, they must either wait until they are 18 to pursue the claim, or a parent, guardian, or conservator may pursue the claim on their behalf. Missouri law imposes special requirements to ensure the child receives the benefit of money awarded in a settlement or judgment.

Changes to Missouri law effective in 2021 ease the requirements for settlements that meet specific criteria. When you are considering a lawsuit seeking damages on behalf of a child, understanding how courts handle child injury settlements in Missouri is critical. Consult an experienced personal injury attorney at BG Law for the information you need to set reasonable expectations and make informed choices.

Courts Must Protect Children’s Damages Awards

Parents or guardians might pursue a lawsuit on behalf of their child when the child sustains injuries due to a vehicle crash, defective product, or other harmful event. When a child’s claim is resolved via settlement or a verdict at trial, the money must be set aside for the child’s benefit.

If the case settles before trial, as most do, the child does not have the legal capacity to agree to the settlement. The parent or guardian must sign the agreement, and in many cases, a judge must approve the settlement to ensure it furthers the child’s best interests.

However, since 2021, Missouri law has allowed a streamlined procedure when the settlement amount is $35,000 or less. In qualifying cases, it is not necessary to obtain a judge’s approval of the settlement, allowing for efficient resolution of the claim.

Simplified Process is Available in Some Cases

Prior to 2021, Missouri law required a judge to approve all settlements on behalf of minors exceeding $10,000, which required filing a petition and other associated legal documents. The judge also held a hearing where the child’s parent or guardian gave testimony describing why the settlement was in the child’s best interest.

Missouri Revised Statutes § 436.700 removes some of these requirements when the child settlement amount, including attorney’s fees and court costs, is less than $35,000. Notably, the case is ineligible for the simplified process when the child has a conservator or guardian ad litem.

When the case meets the criteria, the child’s custodian – usually the parent or guardian – must complete an affidavit affirming that the settlement adequately compensates the child, or that there is no practical avenue to recover additional funds from the at-fault party. The child’s parent or guardian can sign the settlement agreement on the child’s behalf, and there may be no need to request and attend a court hearing. Even with this simplified process, guardians would be wise to consider hiring an attorney with experience in child injury settlements to ensure that this process is completed correctly and in compliance with the law and best practices.

Procedures for Safeguarding a Child’s Funds

Settlement funds are usually paid by cash, draft, or an annuity for the child’s benefit. The money must be paid into a special account, called a Uniform Transfer to Minors Account (UTMA), and the child gains access to the money when they turn 18.

A parent or guardian usually cannot access the money in a UTMA, but a parent could apply for a court order allowing them to access the funds for the child’s benefit. The judge will likely require an explanation why withdrawal of the funds is in the child’s best interests.

Rely on a North Kansas City Attorney When Settling a Minor’s Legal Claim

Parents take on considerable stress when their child is injured and it becomes necessary to pursue a legal claim. Negotiating a settlement that will provide reasonable compensation can be a difficult and frustrating task, and often the parent must then endure the process to obtain court approval.

In some cases, the law allows a solution that avoids delay and allows you to sign the agreement on your child’s behalf without a court hearing. Contact an attorney at BG Law to discuss child injury settlements and whether your child’s case might qualify for the streamlined settlement process.

North Kansas City
Phone (816) 800-9446
416 Armour Road
N. Kansas City, MO 64116
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