Parents never stop worrying over their child’s well-being, and it’s often enhanced when their child gets hurt. At Holland & Usry, we’ve often seen parental anxiety over their child’s injuries from an accident or a dog bite melt into the anxiety of their child personally receiving a substantial amount of money in a settlement and blowing it.
Relax—you can put to rest those nightmares of your teenager flying his friends for a week-long blowout in Vegas. South Carolina law helps parents protect their children from themselves when they receive large settlements. Here’s how:
If the Child Gets Over $25,000
If your child receives $25,000 after paying all medical bills and attorney fees and costs, the settlement must be approved by a state Circuit Court judge. The judge will only approve the settlement if it’s in your child’s best interest. Court papers must be filed summarizing the settlement, followed by a hearing in front of the judge to make the final decision.
Who protects the money? South Carolina law gives three options to protect a child’s injury settlement:
- Appoint a Conservator. A conservator is appointed in a separate proceeding in Probate Court to handle the child’s settlement money, often by depositing it in an interest-bearing bank account. The Spartanburg Probate Court generally requires court approval before the conservator uses any of the money. A parent can be a conservator, if qualified. A conservator must obtain a probate bond, an insurance policy that pays the child if the conservator mismanages or steals the money. This increases case expenses. The conservator must also file a yearly report with the Probate Court, accounting for the money. When the child turns 18, the conservator is required to give all the remaining money to the child.
- Accept a Structured Settlement. This option usually allows you to avoid conservatorship. The money is put in an annuity—basically, an insurance policy designed to pay out the settlement amount plus interest. It’s called “structured” because instead of a single payment to the child at age 18, parents choose when the child gets money and how much. Generally, in our experience, the parents can select varying amounts to be paid to the child once a year, just about anywhere from ages 18 to 25 and possibly later. It gives parents flexibility and often peace of mind, knowing that even if the child wastes part of the settlement early, maturity may lead to more responsible use of later payments.
- Obtain a Special Restricted Account. No one can make any withdrawal from this account until the child reaches 18. When the child reaches 18, the child becomes the sole account owner. In other words, the money belongs to the child, who can do whatever they want with it. Some judges won’t approve settlements involving these accounts.
If the Child Gets $15,000 to $24,999.99
If a conservator has been appointed (as explained above), the case can settle without court approval. Without a conservator, the settlement must be approved by either a state Circuit Court judge or the Probate Court. The court will require a conservator to handle the money, unless you use a structured settlement.
If the Child Gets Less Than $15,000
Usually, the court will not require a conservator. Structured settlements are still an option.
If the child gets $2,500 or less, the parent can settle the claim without a conservator or going to court.
WARNING: Parents receiving money on behalf of their child cannot use that money to pay for items to support the child. For example, you can't use it to buy your child school clothes, or groceries, or a trip to Disney World, no matter how much your child would benefit from it. Instead, the law orders parents to hold the money for the child's future, and turn it over to the child when the child turns 18.
A Special Focus on Accident Settlements for Children
South Carolina law requires courts to keep a sharp eye on the amount and handling of settlement money given to a child. If your child is seriously hurt, you will probably be overwhelmed with coordinating your child’s medical care, spending extra time caring for her, and dealing with your own trauma from her injuries. It could be too much for you to deal with an experienced insurance adjuster who may seem nice, but isn’t looking out for your child’s best interests.
At Holland & Usry, we give special care and attention to a child’s case. If your child is hurt in an accident, we can help you look after your child by handling the complexities and burdens of properly valuing your child’s case, handling the insurance company to force it to fully compensate your child, and managing all contact with the courts, including making your presentation before the judge to get the settlement approved.
You can get started towards a free meeting with us to discuss your child’s injury case in Spartanburg, Cherokee, Union, or Greenville counties by just starting a live chat on this site, sending us an email, or calling us toll free at 888-230-1841 or 864-582-0416. Don’t let another day pass by while your child’s financial future is uncertain.