Can A Parent Represent an Injured Minor Child Following An Automobile Accident?

It may be that following an automobile accident where a minor child is injured, whether it is in Mesa, Gilbert, Phoenix, Chandler, or Scottsdale, Arizona, the child’s parents may have a hard time finding an attorney to represent their child’s interests against the insurance company. This is because, as with all things, attorneys have to do cost/benefits analysis of the cases that come into their office.

Minor child injury cases have extra layers of work associated with them. This is because Arizona law requires Court approval of settlements to minors when the settlement represents compensation for personal injuries.

Specifically, Arizona law states: “…no settlement of a claim brought on behalf of a minor … is binding on the minor…unless it is approved by a judicial officer…” See, 17 A.R.S. Rules of Probate Proc., Rule 53. This goes hand in hand with another Arizona statute which states: “ A conservator may act with court approval to compromise (this means to settle) a personal injury or wrongful death claim for a protected person…” A.R.S. 14-5424(D).

If you put these two statutes together, what they are saying is that you can settle a claim for your minor child for any amount of money BUT if that settlement was not “court- approved” the child is not bound by the agreement. This means that when the child turns the age of majority, eighteen-years-of-age, the now child, now an adult in the eyes of the law, can go back and sue the at-fault driver of the vehicle that injured them AND the insurance company. No insurance company wants that to happen. They will insist on court approval.

So, all cases involving injuries to minors, whether by an automobile accident or other act of negligence, must go through Probate Court, with some limited exceptions. This means that injury cases involving minors create extra layers of work for the attorney. These include:

  • drafting the Conservatorship Forms
  • attending the Conservatorship proceeding
  • extra record-keeping requirements, including keeping track of the time that the lawyer spent on the file to justify the contingent fee agreed to in the contract between the parents of the child and the injury attorney.
  • time spent in the Probate courtroom, and waiting in the courtroom for the hearing to start
  • additional time identifying how the conservator is going to hold the minor child’s money
  • attending the transfer of money from the attorney to the bank or other institution into a “restricted account.”

So you can see that the result of the case must be worth the investment of extra time and money.

As Lincoln said: “A Lawyers Time and Advice are his Stock in Trade.”

In other words, all an attorney has to sell is his or her time along with knowledge. Potential knowledge may be unlimited but time is limited and needs to be allocated as profitably as possible.

Oftentimes, this requirement is met when the parents or other children are also injured in the motor vehicle collision so the lawyer makes up in volume what he or she loses on the specific minor’s file.

But what if the minor child was the only person injured in the accident? If the settlement to the minor is in the smaller range, say between $1,000.00 and $12,000.00 what to do? What do you need to know?

Well, the first thing to know is that insurance companies have, literally, armies of lawyers sitting around the country looking for billable hours. So, you can always simply ask the insurance company if they will pay for the conservatorship proceeding and hire a lawyer to handle the proceedings. Sometimes they will. Sometimes not.

If not, the Superior Court of Maricopa County does provide forms that you can fill out and file on your own. They can be confusing, sort of like doing taxes for the first few times, so be prepared to spend some time figuring it all out. These forms are found here: You go to this page and then click on “Conservatorship of Minor Child.”

Once you click that button, a drop-down menu appears. There are training modules, etc that can be clicked on but I would go straight to “Forms” and click on “Appointment.” First, download the “Instructions Packet” then the “Forms” packet.

These are both written in plain English but again, if it is your first time through, it will be confusing.

One thing that you have to understand is that the people who work at the Court called the “Clerks of Court” are not lawyers and they do not answer legal questions. They file documents and create the court files that the Judges and their staffs use. So, you may go to the Clerk’s Office carrying your filled-out forms and a whole host of questions but chances are, they will not directly answer and legal question.

If you do have questions, and you probably will, go here:

This is a link to the Law Library and Research Center of the Judaical Branch of Arizona. They offer what they call “Remote Form Assistance.” They do not answer legal questions, but they will go over the Form requirements and answer those types of questions. Here is how they put it:

You can ask about questions on a form. We can review your forms (LLRC forms only) for blanks and required documents. We are not able to provide legal advice or tell you how to answer questions or fill out the forms. We will call you at your appointment time at the number you provide (it will be a blocked/private number). After you schedule, we will text you a confirmation and where to email your completed forms.

So the County does offer some assistance. It certainly helps the courts if you have filled out the form correctly and provided the needed documentation so that your case can be opened and closed as quickly as possible. However, the Judges and magistrates in the Probate Court are very nice people if you do make a mistake, they will not embarrass you in the courtroom – lawyers? Yes, sometimes they get a little short with lawyer mistakes but not often with members of the general public.

Finally, the Law Library and Research Center Center maintains a “… list of lawyers who can give you legal advice and who can help you on a task-by-task basis for a fee…”

Now, as time goes by these links may change BUT the information will always, in my opinion, be available somewhere on the Court’s website.

So here is the whole point: If your minor child or children are hurt in an automobile accident but the injury does not have enough value to entice a lawyer to help, well, do not give up. You can get your child compensated. The best part about it, because of the way the Probate Courts protect children and their money, when your child turns eighteen-years-old, there will be some money there to help with college, maybe to buy a used car or help with the expenses of life.