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Minor's Settlement – Proper Protocol for Resolving Claims for Minors
Litigation  |  James Zoccola  |  07.06.2021 9:00 am  |  298  |  A+ | a-
Injuries to minors can be common occurrences in playground accidents or as passengers in auto accidents.  Understanding Indiana law, particularly IC §29-3-9-7 and IC §29-3-3-1, will help navigate the claim to proper conclusion.
 
IC §29-3-3-1 authorizes any person indebted to a minor or having possession of property belonging to a minor in an amount not exceeding $10,000.00 to pay the debt or deliver the property to any person having care and custody of the minor with whom the minor resides.  For amounts in excess of $10,000.00 appointment of a guardian is required to receive property for a minor.
 
In the case of a minor having a disputed claim against another person, whether arising in contract, tort or otherwise, the parents of a minor or a court appointed guardian may compromise a claim on behalf of a minor.  Before a compromise of a contested claim is deemed valid, the proposed settlement must be approved by the probate court having proper jurisdiction (usually the county where the minor resides).  This includes settlements of contested claims above and below the $10,000.00 threshold in IC §29-3-3-1.
 
Proper protocol for settlements of minor’s claims should first include a Petition for Appointment of a Personal Representative (in the case of a minor’s wrongful death) or a Guardian to investigate and pursue a minor’s claim.  It is important, especially in cases involving divorce, to give both natural parents notice of the Petition to Appoint as each parent may feel they are better suited to represent the interests of the minor and it will be up to the Court to decide who is best suited to pursue the claim.
 
Most cases resolve in settlement.  Once settlement is reached, you must seek approval of the settlement from the Probate Court.  Court approval is accomplished with the filing of a Petition to Compromise and Settle the Minor’s Claim.  It is crucial to serve both natural parents on notice of the Petition to Compromise as this affords interested parties and the Court to weigh whether the proposed settlement is in the best interests of the minor and whether the proposed Release is appropriate under the circumstances.
 
Following these steps and protocol will best ensure the settlement will be enforceable and the claim cannot be re-opened barring fraud or mistake.  Please contact James Zoccola at jzoccola@lewis-kappes.com for any assistance in pursuit or resolution of a minor’s compromise.

Disclaimer: This article is made available for educational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice.
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