When Do You Need to See the Judge for a Friendly Hearing?
That idea that any court hearing could be considered friendly might seem absolutely uncanny to you. Surely, there’s nothing particularly amicable about suing another individual or company. So, what in the world is a friendly hearing?
Consider this situation. Your child is a passenger in a vehicle driven by a schoolmate’s parents. It could be that the group is on the way back from a fun trip to Liberty Science Center or the Statute of Liberty. In any event, the ride home means hopping on the New Jersey Turnpike.
As the children laugh and sing in the back seat, their fun is interrupted by a loud crash as a cargo van rams into the rear of the car. You’re not there, but you’re troubled learning that your little girl burst into tears. Of course, your concerns turn frantic when you discover the crying is about more than just the emotional trauma associated with any motor vehicle collision.
Ultimately, it turns out that your child suffered a broken left leg that requires surgery. As much as you hate the idea of filing a lawsuit, you’re not only apprehensive about what a severe injury means as far as pain and suffering. Could the bone fracture impact your daughter’s future development?
You decide your best course of action is to meet with an experienced personal injury attorney. After all, others have told you there’s no cost for meeting with a lawyer – and that legal fees aren’t paid unless there’s ultimately recovery for monetary damages.
During the legal consultation, the attorney mentions something about naming you as your daughter’s guardian. Now, you’re super confused! No doubt you thought guardians were only necessary when natural parents weren’t around to take responsibility.
Guardian ad litems and Friendly Hearings
A few years ago, we provided you with some basic information concerning personal injury lawsuits for children who sustain injuries due to another person or entity’s negligence. For many, the first time they hear of the term guardian ad litem is when their child needs adult representation as part of a legal action. In a future article, we’ll discuss the role of the guardian ad litem in family law cases.
Appointment of a guardian ad litem (or, guardian for the lawsuit) becomes relevant when a minor has a cause of action. In best case scenarios, one of the parents takes on the responsibility of making decisions concerning the injury claim. Unfortunately, there are times when a parent is unavailable, and some other individual may need to be in charge.
An experienced personal attorney understands the importance of designating a guardian ad litem for children who have claims. He or she will guide you through the process.
Here’s a statement that may blow you away. According to one source, 95-96% of all personal injury cases actually conclude with a settlement. However, that doesn’t mean that the phrase “settled out of court” totally applies when it comes to matters involving minors.
The New Jersey court rules include guidelines when it comes to the settlement of cases for minors. (As an aside, these same rules are relevant for agreements for individuals deemed incapacitated.) More particularly, NJ Court Rule 4-44 discusses the procedure necessary to approve settlements.
The term “friendly” likely refers to the fact that the hearing is not contentious. A jury is not present to consider the facts of the case. Instead, a judge reviews the proposed settlement to determine if it is “fair and reasonable as to its amount and terms.”
Meanwhile, the court evaluates other issues regarding structured settlements proposals. Is the obligor financially stable? Are there concerns about future payouts?
At the conclusion of a friendly hearing, the judge reduces the settlement to a court order. Depending on the amount of the settlement, there may be a requirement that the money is held in safekeeping by county officials with limitations on requests for withdrawal until the child is of legal age.
As the Law Office of Anthony Carbone celebrates thirty years of representing injury victims, we continue to use our experience to assist children harmed in accidents. Contact our office to learn how we can help you. We look forward to meeting you.