At Clark and Steinhorn, LLC we often have the pleasure of representing generations of families. We have been around so long that the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of our original clients pass through our offices when they need representation in car and truck accident and medical malpractice cases.
We are delighted that previous generations of Clark and Steinhorn, LLC clients feel and felt such confidence in us that they passed on their most precious cargo to our good handling. And often this means that we represent children.
The basic rules for children are different than for adults. For one thing, the parents and guardians of the injured children often have paid for the child's health care needs and may be entitled to reimbursement for the monies they have spent to ensure their child's recovery. Parents often are compelled to miss time from their employment and may be entitled to be paid for this lost time as well.
However, the pain and suffering associated with a car accident injury is uniquely suffered by the child involved in the crash. Any permanent injury is also something that the child will bear even into adulthood.
Thus, when a case of a minor in Maryland is settled, a good deal of attention must be paid to what money is attributed to what facet of the claim and even more importantly how the settlement will be protected for the child's future use. The Maryland statutory regimen that governs this is contained in the Estates and Trusts Article in 13-401 through 13-407. The essence is that where a net recovery exceeds $5,000.00 a specific check endorsement must be made to protect the settlement proceeds.
Financial institutions negotiating such checks must create restrictive accounts to protect the child's money until age 18. While no guardianship is required, the "Trustee" listed on the check must preserve the proceeds and can only withdraw funds pursuant to a court order.
Such court orders require a strong showing of "necessity" unless the withdrawal is for medical or educational expenses.
Often the insurers and their attorneys insist on court approval of such settlements, so-called "friendly suits". "Friendly Suits" are a bit of a misnomer as being a victim in a serious car or truck crash does not dispose the innocent victims much towards warm, friendly feelings.
The "Friend" in the "Friendly Suits" stems from the descriptor given to the adult guardian or parent, who is legally entitled to transact business on behalf of their child or ward. The Maryland Annotated Code Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article Sec. 6-405 purports to define matters a bit, but is for the most part bereft of useful guidance.
"Friendly Suits" contemplate obtaining court approval of the settlement of a minor's personal injury or malpractice claim. They are not required but are often favored by insurance carriers as providing them and their insureds future protections in the event that the minor upon adulthood is unhappy with the settlement.
The notion is that if the court approved such a settlement, it must have been fair. Unfortunately the amount of attention any given judge can give to such a matter is minimal and such "approval" often hinders efforts by the former minor, now adult victim, to pursue fair compensation when they legitimately were unfairly treated in the settlement during their childhood.
Instances where unethical lawyers and guardians are let off the hook abound and the only real protection that a child victim can obtain is to have capable representation in the first place.
The bottom-line, if your child has been injured, contact Clark and Steinhorn, LLC at (301) 317-1001 or reach us at Maryland-Law.com