Updated April 1, 2024

Can I Access My Child’s Settlement Money?

Access to a child’s settlement money is dependent on who is awarded the money, which is determined either in the settlement agreement or by the court. 

If the parents are awarded the settlement, sometimes the court will mandate what that money can be spent on (food, water, shelter, clothing, health, etc.). If the court decides that the parent fails to represent the child’s best interest, it can appoint a guardian ad litem for the purposes of the lawsuit. If the court decides on a guardian ad litem minor settlement, the guardian has the authority to select and consult with an attorney.

Who Can Access a Child's Settlement Money?

If a child’s settlement award is less than $10,000, it can be received directly by the child’s parents. Settlements are legal property of the minor, and they are often awarded under a set of specific provisions that determine how the money should be spent

For example, if the plaintiff cited hospital bills, rehabilitation, counseling, and home accommodations in the original claim, the settlement award would likely be designated for those expenses.

If a settlement awarded on behalf of the minor amounts to $10,000 or more, it must be approved by the court and accepted by the parent or guardian.

Who Can File a Personal Injury Claim for a Minor?

A child under the age of 18 cannot file their own lawsuit in Indiana. On the minor child’s behalf, a parent or guardian may file a claim for a personal injury settlement. Any child under the age of seven is presumed incapable of fault. Children between the ages of eight and 13 are likewise incapable of fault.

However, children ages 14 to 18 can potentially be charged as adults. In children’s personal injury cases, the statute of limitations is extended. Ordinarily, an injured party has two years after the incident to file a claim. Since children are not able to file claims on their own, the statute of limitations does not necessarily apply until the child turns 18. 

If you have specific questions on how long you have to file a claim on behalf of a child, we recommend consulting with an experienced personal injury attorney. The personal injury attorneys at WKW offer free consultations.

Can a Parent File a Lawsuit on Behalf of a Child?

Yes, parents can—and often have to—file a lawsuit on behalf of a child. Minors in Indiana, and in most states, cannot legally file a lawsuit. Instead, a parent can file a lawsuit on the child’s behalf. In some cases, the parents can also file a lawsuit for themselves if they had to pay for certain injury-related expenses. 

For example, if the parent paid for the medical expenses from the injuries the child suffered, they may be able to receive a portion of the settlement or have a separate settlement. However, you must talk to your personal injury attorney before spending any settlement funds. If the funds were allocated for the child, there are specific spending rules the parents must follow. 

Find out more about the car accident settlement process here. Wondering about different types of personal injury and child lawsuits? Read our blog post titled “Do I Need a Lawyer If My Child Has Cerebral Palsy?” for more information.

Where Does the Settlement Money Go?

Parents or guardians can delegate the child’s settlement money to a:

  • Bank account
  • Trust fund
  • Educational or college fund
  • Court-monitored bank account

In some cases, the settlement or court may require a structured settlement. In these cases, the parent or guardian agrees that the minor’s lawsuit money will be distributed on a specific schedule after the child turns 18. Find out about the pros and cons of structured settlements here.

Can I Use My Child’s Settlement Money?

If the settlement money is designated specifically for the child, then it may be kept in a trust account for them. It may also be given in a lump sum for reimbursement. Whatever the settlement agreement is, because the recipient is a minor, there are legalities around how the money is either spent or kept. More often than not, the settlement money will be placed in a court-approved investment fund.

If a parent does have access to the settlement money, they must follow the rules about how the money can be distributed and spent. If a parent is found to have used the funds on their own behalf, they could face penalties.

How Do I Get My Settlement Money When I Turn 18?

Access to your settlement fund is determined by the court in the initial agreement. If your money is in a trust, there are two main scenarios that can happen:

  1. Traditional settlement
  2. Structured settlement

In a traditional settlement, you are able to collect the full amount of money from the trust fund.

In a structured settlement, there are agreed upon (by your parents/guardians) percentages and dates regarding the amount of money you can withdraw. For example, when you turn 18, you may have access to 10% of the fund, after which you get another lump sum from the settlement fund on an every-three-years schedule. This is typically what happens when a minor receives a settlement. 

Find out more about how to get a structured settlement here.

Can I Gain Access to My Child’s Settlement Money?

Gaining access to your child’s settlement fund depends on the means in which the fund is distributed. It also depends on what type of settlement the lawsuit is for. Usually, if it is a personal injury case, the child lawsuit money goes to the child, who will likely get the full amount of settlement funds in a structured settlement.

Contact a Personal Injury Attorney Today

No parent should have to endure the trauma of fighting for an injured child. The experienced personal injury attorneys here at Wilson Kehoe Winingham are dedicated to our clients and their recoveries. 

Talk to us about personal injury settlements for minors so that we can help make this healing process easier on your whole family. Call 317-920-6400 or fill out our online contact form for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.

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