Child Injury Cases In Georgia
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How are attorney’s fees handled in Georgia child injury cases?
A: Most well respected Plaintiff’s injury lawyers in Georgia handle cases for adults and children on what is called a “contingency fee.” The fee is “contingent” upon the lawyer securing a financial recovery for the child client. In other words, if the personal injury case results in no money for the child, the lawyer does not get paid. Said another way, there is no hourly fee, retainer, or upfront cost to the client. You should be very careful, and suspicious, if any lawyer tries to charge you a fee upfront for a child injury case in Georgia. The actual contingency fee is a percentage of the total settlement and the fee varies on a case-by-case basis. Be cautious of lawyers who offer deeply discounted rates, similar to coupons for lawyers—with legal counsel, you usually get what you pay for,
Q: Who gets to control the money after a Georgia child injury case is settled or over?
A: Usually the child’s parents. Of course, if a ten year old secures a sizeable financial settlement, he is not yet ready to be responsible for, or manage, a great deal of money. In fact, Georgia law has formal precautions in place to make sure that the child does not get control over the personal injury settlement money. How? The answer to that question is complex; however, in summary, Georgia Courts require that the child have a responsible adult appointed as his “Conservator” over his money. The Conservator is charged with the legal duty of protecting and managing the money for the child until he reaches 18 years of age. Often, if the Conservator desires to spend the child’s money, he must explain to the Court how and why the money will be spent. This safeguard is in place to protect the child’s money from being spent without oversight.
Q: What happens if my child has future medical expenses or surgery after an injury case is settled?
A. Our Atlanta child injury law firm has represented many children who have sustained serious injuries as a result of the negligent conduct of a person or corporation. Often, the children that we represent need continuing medical care, long after their case is resolved. Parents often ask us how their child’s future medical needs are factored into any settlement or jury verdict. The answer is relatively easy. Our law firm presents comprehensive demand packages, or thorough trial presentations at trial, which include a list of and accounting for the child’s future medical needs. The information comes primarily from two sources – One, the child’s treating medical team (pediatrician, surgeon, rehabilitation specialists, and the like). Second, the parents often have a good idea of what their child will require in terms of support services, assistive devices, and out-patient or in-home care. All of these items are factored in and accounted for when re resolve a child injury case.
Q: Can a parent or Conservator in Georgia use a portion of the child’s settlement money for medical expenses, clothes, or school costs for the child?
A: Probably. While the Judge who approved the settlement, usually a Trial Judge or Probate Judge, may exercise control over expenditures, Judges are often willing to allow money to be spent on reasonable expenses for the child. In fact, if it is believed that a child is going to need medical care in the near future after a case is concluded, we advise clients to ask the Court for permission to withhold money from the settlement, to be placed into a separate account. Frequently clients hold between $5,000.00 and $15,000.00 back from child injury settlements in order to cover expenses for the child related to the injury at issue. These expenses can include: insurance deductibles, medication, rehabilitation needs, modifications to homes (wheelchair ramps and the like), and numerous other injury-related expenses.
Q: Why do Georgia Courts have oversight of my child’s injury settlement? I’m a good parent.
A: The Court’s oversight of a child injury settlement has very little to do with a family’s financial circumstances, the “quality” of parenting, or, really, anything specific to the kid or parents. Why? Georgia law cannot distinguish between rich and poor or “good” and “bad” parents. The must treat everyone as equals. Of course, many Judges give more freedom to parents with a proven track record of good decisions and financial stability. But, generally, everyone follows the same rules with respect to how a child’s money must be protected. Said another way, the legal system seeks to ensure that parents and other family members do not spend the money on things that do not directly benefit the child. Of course, our child injury firm seeks to secure as much freedom for our clients to make choices for the child’s money. We have a had great success in crafting financial plans which benefit the child, while allowing his parents to have ready access to cash, to be used for their kid’s benefit.
Q: What if my child’s injury settlement is small? Do Georgia Courts make exceptions for oversight of small amounts of money?
A: Yes. Generally, if the gross settlement of the child’s injury case is less than $15,000.00, Court approval is not necessary. The parents are free to settle the case and manage the money without Court oversight. If the gross settlement is over $15,000.00, but after deducting attorney’s fees and case expenses, the child actually receives less than $15,000.00, Court approval is still needed—but, the parent does not need to be appointed as the child’s Conservator. If the gross settlement exceeds $15,000.00 and the child will receive more than $15,000.00 after attorney’s fees and case expenses are deducted, Court approval is needed and a parent or other guardian of the child must be appointed as the child’s Conservator. O.C.G.A. § 29-3-3 addresses these questions in more detail.
Q: If my child is injured at a daycare in Atlanta can my child receive money for her injuries?
A: Yes, if the daycare owners, workers, and employees were negligent or reckless in their conduct, leading to injury to the child. A simple example should help illustrate the point. Scenario 1 – a 5 year old child is running on the playground, falls, and breaks his arm. Is there negligent conduct by the daycare? Probably not. Five year olds run and, sometimes, they fall. Scenario 2 – A five year old is playing on the playground when another child, known to be aggressive toward other kids, pushes him down, resulting in a broken arm. Is there negligent conduct by the daycare? Probably. If the daycare employees failed to address the “bully” and/or otherwise safeguard the other children, that conduct is likely not appropriate and would give rise to an injury claim.