Did you know? California has laws in place to protect children's injury settlements by making sure the money from an injury case goes directly to them when they become adults. The governing law is actually California Probate Code Sections 3611(d), and 3401. They both basically say whenever a minor child in California receives a bodily injury settlement that is $5,000.00 or more, then court approval via a court order is required. In my San Diego child injury cases, I am constantly filing paperwork with the court in order to obtain these court orders for my injured children that I represent. 

The 3 Roles of the California Judge in Issuing a Court Order in a Child Injury Settlement

First, and foremost, the California judge approves who will serve as the Guardian Ad Litem in a child injury settlement. This person's responsibility is to serve as the injured child's advocate during the approval court hearing. You see, minor children do not have legal capacity onto themselves, because they are underage. The Guardian Ad Litem allows the child to access the court to get a court order for their injury settlement.

The Child Injury Settlement Should Be Fair and Equitable

Second, and equally important, the judge has the power to make sure the settlement offer that is being offered to the minor child is fair and equitable to the child. Thus, if the judge feels the injury is worth more money, he or she will not approve the settlement and order the parties back to settlement discussions. While this is rare, it can occur. The reason why it is rare, is because the injury lawyer fighting for the settlement would not file for a court order if he or she did not feel the value is within the settlement range, and the at-fault party knows, they have to offer a fair amount, or the judge will not approve it. 

Settlement Funds Go To The Injured Child When They Become an Adult

Third, and even as important as the first two roles, the judge makes sure that the settlement funds will go to the injured child when they become an adult. There are two ways, generally speaking, in which settlement funds go to an injured child in California. The settlement funds can be deposited into a bank inside what is called a "blocked account" until the child turns 18 years of age. At that time, the child can bring his or her driver's license, or any valid ID, to the bank and obtain control of the settlement funds from the blocked account.

Settlements For Child Injury Cases Using a Structured Annuity

The other way is via a structured annuity. A structured annuity is a great way to go with settlement funds for a child if the settlement is quite large, and the injured child is quite young at the time of the settlement. A structured annuity is actually a contract between a Triple A-rated insurance company that guarantees lump-sum payments to the child over time. You will get a much better rate of return using this vehicle as opposed to depositing settlement funds into a blocked bank account. With a structured annuity, the parents get to choose a plan to structure payments to their injured child through time. For example, instead of getting a huge chunk of money when they turn 18, which is generally not a good idea, the injured child gets a small portion at age 18, then at age 20, for example, they get another lump sum payment, and another at age 22, 25, 28, or 30, and so on. The longer the structure, the better the rate of return because the child is utilizing that time element. 
So, the judge's third role is to approve either a bank blocked account or a structured annuity, for the injured child. Once the three roles the judge reviews and approves, he or she then issues a court order for the California child injury settlement. If it is a blocked account approval, then I use that to obtain the settlement funds and help the parents open a blocked account. If it is a structured annuity approval, then I use that to fund the structure for the child on behalf of the parents.

San Diego Child Injury Attorney That Is Here To Help You and Your Loved Ones

Would you like to know more? Perhaps you, or someone you know, has a child injury case, and you or they need more information. Be sure to download my FREE Ebook entitled "Justice for the Injured Child" for more information. Or, you can contact me by using my convenient online contact form. Or, you can simply call me at 619.813.7955, or via email at mark@blanelaw.com. 


Mark Blane
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San Diego Personal Injury Lawyer | California Car Accident Attorney