If, God forbid, your child is seriously injured in an accident of any kind – bike accident, dog bite, auto accident, etc., and the settlement exceeds $10,000 in value there will be some additional steps that you will be required to take on behalf of your child. Rhode Island state law holds that any settlement over $10,000 for a minor child must be approved by a Judge.
The law is meant to protect minor children in a couple of ways. For one, the Judge will be looking to confirm that the settlement is fair to the child for the injury sustained. Second, the Judge is looking to ensure that the money will be secured for the minor child and not used by the parents.
A guardian ad litem will be appointed for your minor child. This person, an attorney, does not work with your personal injury attorney, nor does he work with the insurance company. The guardian ad litem is solely interested in assuring the best interest of the minor who can not speak for himself. He or she will do this by ensuring that the settlement offer is fair and that the parents have made necessary arrangements to put the money into a trust fund or other savings account that can be used by the minor for his or her benefit. Often, the money is designed to be accessible to the minor when he or she comes of age.
Your attorney will need to file whats called a “friendly suit”. In almost every way this is a normal lawsuit, except that both sides have already agreed to a resolution. You will not have to go through the discovery process and you and your child will not be deposed. Once the lawsuit is filed, your attorney will file a Motion to have the case heard before the Formal and Special Cause Calendar. At that hearing, the Judge will hear from both the plaintiff and defense attorney and will also review the report of the guardian ad litem. If the Judge is satisfied that the interests of the minor child have been protected, the settlement can finally be approved.