COLUMN: Accident settlements – how are your child’s interests protected?

The unthinkable happens and your child has been injured in an accident.

  • Nov. 16, 2013 8:00 p.m.

Legal-Ease by Doug Lester

The unthinkable happens and your child has been injured in an accident.  Thankfully, within months of the accident he has fully recovered.

You and the insurance company have come to what you believe is a fair settlement that will award your son $10,000 to compensate for his pain and suffering.  You know that settlements are typically “final,” but you soon find out that despite your agreement with the insurance company, the settlement is subject to the approval of some mysterious third party known as the Public Guardian and Trustee. What gives?

Ordinarily, an injured party may simply enter into a settlement with an insurer and then expect settlement funds to be forthcoming.  However, due to legislation that protects infants, involvement of the office of the Public Guardian and Trustee (PGT) to approve a settlement is an additional step.  In B.C., an infant is any person under the age of 19.

At its core, the purpose of the Public Guardian and Trustee is to protect the interests of infants by ensuring that any settlement is fair and just in all the circumstances. The size of the award any child receives should not be predicated upon the parents’ perceived knowledge of current personal injury awards. The PGT attempts to place all children on a level playing field.  Furthermore, since infants cannot enter into legally binding contracts, the involvement of the PGT also adds security, certainty and finality to settlements involving infants.

Shifting back to our hypothetical from above, for your negotiated settlement of $10,000 to be approved, you or your lawyer would need to make written submissions to the PGT which would include details of the injury, case law supporting the figure you have negotiated, as well as an application fee.

Had this been a more serious injury involving a proposed settlement of more than $50,000, the PGT would be required to provide statutory comments, which would then have to be presented to a judge at a hearing.  Furthermore, if the PGT were not to approve the proposed settlement, a court order would be required to approve the settlement – and the hearing would likely be contested.

Even after an approved settlement, the PGT role is not complete.  The award is for the infant, and not the parent.  As such, the funds will be held in trust by the PGT and then paid directly to the infant once they reach the age of 19.  In some circumstances, parents may have access to some of these funds for the maintenance of their child, but such access is strictly regulated by the PGT.

Personal injury settlements are complex matters, and often require an extensive knowledge of relevant case law and legal proceedings to ensure a fair payout.  When infants are involved this process is further complicated.

Doug is a partner with RDM Lawyers LLP, practicing in the areas of personal injury law and labour and employment law.  Comments can be sent to legalease@abbynews.com.

Just Posted

The theme for this year’s Fraser Valley Regional Library Summer Reading Club is “Crack the Case” and Katie Burns, community librarian at the Chilliwack Library, is encouraging people of all ages to sign up. She is seen here at the Chilliwack Library on Friday, June 18, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Crack the case, read, win prizes with FVRL Summer Reading Club

‘Immerse yourself in other worlds and have a bit of fun while you do it,’ says Chilliwack librarian

A police pursuit involving Abbotsford Police ended in Langley Saturday night, June 20. (Black Press Media file)
Abbotsford Police pursuit ends in Langley with guns drawn

One person arrested, witnesses say an officer may have been hurt in collision with suspect vehicle

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

Kalyn Head, seen here on June 4, 2021, will be running 100 kilometres for her “birthday marathon” fundraiser on July 23. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Woman’s 100-km birthday marathon from Chilliwack to Abbotsford will benefit Special Olympics B.C.

Kalyn Head hopes run raises awareness, advocates for inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities

Dancers from the Sts’ailes First Nation perform the eagle dance at a welcome banner dedication ceremony on Thursday, June 10. “Ey Swayel” is a Halq̓eméylem term translated as ‘a good day.’ (Adam Louis/Observer)
VIDEO: ‘A good day’ for Agassiz school as Sts’ailes welcome banner is dedicated

Banner hangs above the school’s entrance, welcoming students, staff and visitors

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

(file)
Pedestrian hit by police vehicle in Langley

Injuries described as serious, requiring surgery

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read