The Messina Law Firm
Lawsuits by Children
Sometimes lawsuits by children may need to be brought for injuries caused to a child. Perhaps due to the negligence of a doctor or automobile driver, the suit must be filed by a competent adult. An adult who may be the child’s parent, guardian or even a person called the child’s “next friend”. Which just means anyone with an interest in the child’s welfare.
The Parent’s Attorney May Be Able to Represent the Child and Maybe Not.
An attorney retained by the parent or guardian is often able to protect both the parent’s interests and the child’s interests at the same time. However, he or she is technically the adult’s lawyer. So when the attorney, the court, or the involved adult thinks it appropriate, the court may appoint another lawyer to represent the child.
Attorney Ad Litem
The lawyer who has been appointed to represent the child is generally referred to as the child’s ‘attorney ad litem’. Such an attorney is not hired by the parents and thus is free to act on the child’s behalf. Generally, the responsibilities of that attorney include investigating the child’s claims. Reporting back to the court about what this investigation reveals, and making sure that the child has an effective advocate.
A Court Often Appoints an ‘attorney Ad Litem’
A court often appoints an attorney ad litem to represent a child if there is a conflict between the interests of the adults and the interests of the child. Automobile accident cases where both the parents and child are badly injured, yet the defendant has only limited insurance coverage for example.
Other kinds of cases where an attorney ad litem may be appointed include foster-care proceedings involving a child. Some kinds of inheritance cases and contested custody cases are other examples.
Statute of Limitations
Like all lawsuits, lawsuits brought on behalf of children are subject to statutes of limitations. Are laws that limit how long you may wait before bringing a legal claim against another person. Generally, the statute of limitations in a personal injury or consumer law case is two years, while the statute of limitations in a contract case is generally four years.
But Children Cannot File Lawsuits On Their Own Behalf
Children cannot file lawsuits on their own behalf. Hence, the statute of limitations on a child’s claims is ‘tolled’ meaning suspended. For the time while the child is a minor. The statute of limitations on the child’s claim does not begin until the child becomes an adult at age 18.
So, if a child is injured in a car accident during their childhood, they would have the right to file a lawsuit until he or she turned 20. Which would be the two-year adult statute of limitations applied after his or her 18th birthday.