What do you do when a family member who is conserved is injured by another’s negligence? “Conserved” means that a court appointed conservator, depending on the court’s order, may have authority over both the person (including where the person may be living, such as in an appropriate facility for their needs) and their finances (the estate). Normally this is done when a person is found to be “gravely disabled,” often due to a mental disability, and cannot safely care for themselves. The Public Guardian is often the conservator for those who are in need of a conservatorship to ensure their safety and welfare.
Janssen Malloy LLP is currently handling a personal injury matter on behalf of a woman who is under a court-ordered conservatorship of her person and estate (Welfare and Institutions Code sections 5350, et seq., a Lanterman-Petris-Short Act conservatorship). The woman’s brother contacted us because his sister had been struck by a vehicle while in a marked crosswalk in Eureka, suffering a fractured neck and requiring hospitalization and treatment. How is the signing of contracts and other documents handled for a conserved person? The Conservator (in this case, the Humboldt County Public Guardian), with court approval, is authorized to enter into a contingency fee contract with an attorney if the matter is one “that is a type customarily the subject of a contingency fee agreement…and the agreement is to the advantage, benefit and best interest of the conservatee….” (Probate Code section 2644; California Rules of Court Rule 7.753. In this particular case, the Public Guardian petitioned the court for an order approving the contingent fee contract to hire the attorney to prosecute the personal injury case on the conservatee’s behalf. Personal injury cases are almost always handled on a contingency fee basis, which means that the attorney is only paid a percentage of the settlement or verdict if the attorney is successful; if there is no recovery, the client owes nothing for fees or advanced costs to the lawyer handling the case. As one would expect, such an arrangement makes the lawyer extremely businesslike about successfully handling the case.
Family members are frequently at a loss as to what to do for a loved one who is injured and is under a conservatorship or guardianship. Janssen Malloy LLP is experienced in handling such matters. If your loved one confronts such a circumstance, the attorneys at Janssen Malloy LLP stand ready to assist.