When a minor (in Alberta under 18 years of age) is injured in a motor vehicle collision, he or she cannot sign the release absolving the wrongdoer of any further liability upon payment of a settlement. This, of course, creates a problem for the wrongdoer and his or her auto insurance company as they want a release upon payment of the settlement amount.
Therefore, the Minors’ Property Act states that a settlement to be binding on the minor must not only be signed by the minor’s parent or guardian, but approved by a court and an order issued accordingly.
Child Injury Settlement
Therefore, in a child injury settlement the defendant will often, but not always, ask for an order of the court releasing them from any further liability. This necessitates preparing an affidavit and attaching medical expert reports by way of an exhibit to the affidavit for the benefit of the court so that the court can review the injuries and review the settlement amount and any other input from plaintiff’s counsel with respect to the appropriateness of the settlement. If the judge agrees, then the order is issued and the defendant is released.
A change effective November 25th, 2014 regarding very small injury claims involving minors affects the amount that may be paid to the parent or guardian rather than the Public Trustee. In a normal situation the settlement funds after the above order is obtained, are paid to the Public Trustee’s office, minus legal fees, for investment by the Public Trustee until the minor turns 18 and then the amount is paid to the minor upon turning 18 years of age. However, it used to be that if the settlement was $5,000 or less, the funds did not have to be paid to the Public Trustee, but could be paid to the parent or guardian of the minor. Now, effective November 25th, 2014, any amounts of $10,000 or under may be paid to the guardian of a minor rather than the Public Trustee.
This does not change the fact that the guardian of the minor is still required to complete a Guardian’s Acknowledgement of Responsibility form and does not change the fact that settlements are not binding on a minor unless confirmed by the court as discussed at the beginning of this blog post.
Handel Law Firm is Alberta’s personal injury law firm serving the communities of Red Deer, Fort McMurray and Grande Prairie.