By Stuart Cappus
In British Columbia, the age of majority is 19 years old. Once a person turns 19, the law generally presumes that they are able to manage and make their own decisions regarding their legal and financial affairs. Conversely, the law considers individuals who are under 19 to be “infants” or “minors”, and prescribes certain rules and limitations to protect their interests.
When it comes to ICBC or other personal injury claims, the general rule is that a person has two years from the date of an accident to sue the responsible party for damages failing which their claim is statute-barred pursuant to the Limitation Act. However, if the injured party is a minor at the time of the accident, the Limitation Act says that they have two years from the date of their 19th birthday to sue the responsible party.
Of course, nothing prevents a minor from starting a court action before they turn 19. All that is required is for an adult to act as their “Litigation Guardian”. Similarly, nothing prevents a Litigation Guardian acting on behalf of a minor to settle the minor’s claim before they turn 19. The only thing that is required is for the Public Guardian & Trustee (PGT) to approve of the settlement before it is finalized. Depending on the amount of the settlement and whether or not a court action has been started, there are various procedures by which to seek the PGT’s approval. Providing the PGT and, in certain circumstances, the court approve of the settlement, the settlement funds, after payment of legal fees and disbursements, are held in trust and invested by the PGT until the minor reaches the age of majority. At that time, the settlement funds are released to the individual.
It should be noted that getting the PGT’s approval is not always assured and, in any event, adds another step to the settlement process. Additionally, the PGT charges minors a fee to manage the investment of their settlement, and there’s no guarantee that those fees won’t exceed the return-on-investment earned by the funds. For that reason, if an injured minor is close to reaching the age of majority, it may be prudent to wait until they are 19 to resolve their claim.