Written by attorney Jeffrey Michael Donato

An Overview of New York's Infant's Compromise Hearing

In New York, when a child (an infant) has a personal injury case, the case is prosecuted in the normal manner by the parent/guardian. If and when a settlement is offered, however, the case takes a turn, and the court gets involved. New York State law requires that all settlements (compromises) be looked at and scrutinized by a judge. The reasons are many: To prevent lawyer abuse; To prevent the parent/guardian from taking a quickie settlement; To ensure that the settlement proceeds will be available for the child at his/her 18th birthday; To ensure that the settlement proceeds will be used (by the child) in a smart way; To ensure that the money is kept safely in an account set aside, at a bank, solely for the child's benefit; and maybe most importantly to ensure that the child's best interests are being looked after (to ensure that the money being accepted by the attorney/parent and on the child's behalf is sufficient in light of the seriousness of the child's personal injuries).

Accordingly, the court will require the attorney, the parent, and the injured child to appear before him/her to have a hearing. Although in many cases, the hearing is a formality, it is important. It may be held in open court, or even in the judge's chambers so that the child feels comfortable. Besides the judge, there will be a court reporter, perhaps a clerk, the attorney, the parent(s), and the child. Usually the hearing is simple and straightforward. The judge may/may not ask for a recitation of the facts from the attorney. Then the judge usually takes over and starts asking questions. The questions are usually to the parent/child, but the attorney may also add pertinent information. Frequently, judges will bend over backwards to make the parent/child feel safe, secure, and comfortable with the legal process.

Although sometimes appearing informal, the court will want to make sure that the parent/child understands the seriousness of the matter. Dressing appropriately for court is required. No jeans/sneakers. Professional business attire or contemporary casual attire is a must. Arrive early and sometimes the court will try to squeeze you in ahead of the other matters (as an extra courtesy).

Ask your attorney for details, and to get a better understanding of the process. You will be fine.

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