When we settle a claim for someone under the age of 18 years we just assume that everyone will be asked to get in front of a Circuit Court Judge for approval.
It isn’t a guarantee though. Sometimes insurance companies don’t require a minor settlement hearing. It’s their prerogative. They can do what they want to do when it comes to demanding court approval.
That’s what makes some minor settlements unusual. It is the unusual case that does NOT require court approval. The statute involved is:
Wisconsin Statute Section 807.10
(1) A compromise or settlement of an action or proceeding to which a minor or individual adjudicated incompetent is a party may be made by the guardian, if the guardian is represented by an attorney, or the guardian ad litem with the approval of the court in which such action or proceeding is pending.
It is really up to the insurance company to decide whether they want to risk not having the force and effect of the court system. Minors cannot be held to a contract. So, if an insurance company pays an amount of money to settle an injury claim for a child and does NOT require court approval that minor could come back when they are 18 (but before they are 20) and file a lawsuit against the insurance company for damages.
You can be sure that the insurance company would fight the claim and show the court the cashed check, letters and other claims documents regarding the claim. It would be up to the court to decide whether the claim would survive. My guess is that a jury would ultimately have to decide what amount in damages the plaintiff would recover. If the jury verdict was for an amount larger than the settlement the plaintiff would have “won.” But if the amount was for an amount less than the previous settlement the insurance company may be able to recover all of their costs from the plaintiff for having to fight the claim.
Most of the time we recommend that a Judge approve a minor settlement even if the insurance company doesn’t require one.
Call us if you have any questions about the process.
Attorney Jon P. Groth is a Wisconsin Personal Injury Attorney located in the Milwaukee area and serving clients across Wisconsin from Black River Falls to Wauwatosa and Kenosha to Marinette.