In many of our cases, our clients are surprised when we tell them that they do not have the final say regarding settling their Florida personal injury or wrongful death cases, and that we need to file a Motion To Approve Settlement and seek a judge’s approval of the settlement.
A Motion to Approve Settlement is typically required in a case where there is a substitute person (a Personal Representative or Guardian, typically ) representing the interests of someone who has died, or a child, or someone who is incapacitated and cannot act on their own behalf.
Under Florida law, any person who elects to act in the capacity of Personal Representative of an Estate, or as Guardian of a minor or incapacitated person owes a fiduciary duty to act in the very best interests of the decedent’s Estate or the person who cannot represent themselves. Sometimes this duty may even require the Representative or Guardian to act against their own, selfish, interests in order to perform their sworn duty as a Representative or Guardian.
Who Hears A Motion To Approve Settlement?
Even if the person owing the fiduciary duty does an exemplary job, Florida law requires that any settlement reached by such a Representative or Guardian be analyzed and scrutinized by a Circuit Court judge. The judge is typically looking to make sure the settlement makes sense, and really does serve the best interests of the Estate or the incapacitated person. For example, a judge might look suspiciously at a proposed wrongful death settlement where the Personal Representative is supposed to receive all of the settlement money, to the exclusion of his brothers and sisters.
I recently shot a short video about how a Motion to Approve Settlement works in Florida. You can watch it here:
If you have any questions regarding how money is typically handled in a Florida wrongful death settlement, or whether a Motion to Approve Settlement might be required in a personal injury case involving a child or someone who has suffered a significant brain injury, call Winter Park personal injury attorneys Kim Cullen and Robert Hemphill at 407-254-4901.