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When a child is injured, once the settlement is reached there is a procedure that has to be used in most cases to have the settlement approved by the court. The reason that this is done is to protect the defendants from the minor coming back and filing suit again, once they reach majority age. What happens is, a friendly suit is filed with the court. That’s what it’s called because basically both sides are agreeing. We’re saying, we’ve already reached an agreement and we’d just like the court to appoint an ad litem to approve the settlement.
Typically the ad litem’s fees and the filing fees are paid by the defendant because it is really for their protection. Once the petition is filed and answered by the defendant, then the court can appoint a guardian ad litem. That is a third party attorney, somebody who’s not involved in the case, who can look over the settlement and make sure that the settlement is truly in the best interest of the child.
Most of the time, we’ve agreed to settle the case. They’re probably going to find it is in the best of the child and make recommendations to the court to approve, or not approve the settlement. If they do recommend that it be approved, most of the time the court will approve it and that will be the final step. Many times in evaluating it, the ad litem will also be considering how the money is disbursed. It cannot be given to a minor, in most cases. It will either be put into the registry of the court or into some other asset protection system, like a trust, or maybe a structured annuity, in order to provide for the minor down the road.