By Attorney Eric Parker
- Resolving conflicts between parent and child. In many instances, an attorney will be contacted by a parent of an injured child in connection with an incident that may ultimately involve liability on the part of the parent. In these cases and especially in those where the parent is also asserting a claim, it may be necessary to have outside counsel represented one of the parties so as to avoid a conflict of interest. This is not to suggest that every case involving a parent and child necessarily involves a conflict of interest, but care should be taken to investigate the potential for conflict before any serious problems arise.
- Evaluating the Need for a Structured Settlement. Structured settlements can be a wonderful mechanism for meeting the financial needs of an injured child. The special tax treatment offered by the structured settlement allows for tax-free growth of principle over the life of the structure. However, there are instances where a structure may not prove beneficial to the child and, in fact, may run counter to the child’s best interests. A lawyer faced with the option of a structure should select the option which best accommodates the child’s most likely future financial needs. Consultation with a qualified financial advisor or structured settlement specialist is strongly recommended.
- Evaluating the “Present Value” of a Structured Settlement. In addition to the concerns outlined above, a lawyer presented with a structured settlement proposal must determine the “present value” of the structure before it can be properly evaluated as a settlement option. “Present value” is the term generally used to denote the present cost of the structure by the insurer. For example: a structured settlement may provide for five payments of $100,000 over a twenty-year period. While the total payout maybe $500,000, the present cost to purchase the annuity will be far less. It is incumbent upon the lawyer representing the attorney to determine the present value of the structure so that the benefit of such a settlement can be accurately assessed.
- The Applicable Statute of Limitations for Minors. While most lawyers are aware that minors are afforded special treatment where limitations of actions are concerned, a child injured on a playground or as a result of a building or architectural defect may be faced with a “repose” issue pursuant to G.L. c. 260 § 2B, which was intended to abolish a remedy and not merely to bar an action. See Tindol v. Boston Housing Authority, 487 N.E.2d 488, 396 Mass. 515 (1986). Another potential nightmare is the revised statute of limitations on medical malpractice cases involving minors. The statute involves some funky math to arrive at the statute deadline.
Representing those who can not advocate for themselves is a privilege and a great responsibility. Care should be taken at every stage of the case to ensure that the child’s interests are well-protected.
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About Attorney Eric J. Parker
Eric J. Parker is the Managing Partner and co-founder of the Boston-based trial firm Parker Scheer LLP, with offices in Massachusetts and Nevada. Mr. Parker has 20 years of active experience as one of Massachusetts’ leading civil trial lawyers and holds the highest peer-review rating awarded to any attorney for professional skill and ethics. Mr. Parker is a member of the American Association for Justice (formerly the Association of Trial Lawyers of America), as well as the American, Massachusetts, and Boston Bar Associations. Mr. Parker is an elected member of the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA; Elected Vice President, Massachusetts Chapter, January 2007), and is a certified member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum. In 2007, Mr. Parker was appointed to the Editorial Board of Massachusetts Lawyer Weekly, the leading weekly legal newspaper serving the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Mr. Parker has been named a Massachusetts Super Lawyer by the publishers of Boston Magazine, every year since the distinction was first created. Mr. Parker’s legal practice focuses on plaintiff-oriented tort litigation, including product liability, motor vehicle tort, medical and dental malpractice, premises liability claims, workplace sexual harassment and assault, aviation-related injuries, and wrongful death. Mr. Parker is a graduate of Vassar College and received his Juris Doctor degree from Suffolk University Law School. In addition to his legal practice, Mr. Parker is also an FAA Certified Private Pilot, and was a founding member of the Board of Trustees of the Media And Technology Charter High School (MATCH) located in Boston (Chairman 2001-2005), the goal of which is to provide inner-city high school students with a successful college education.