Can a Minor Sue for Personal Injury?
A minor does not have the legal capacity to file a lawsuit on their own. As a result, they are required to have a representative file on their behalf. In Texas, this representative is called a ‘next of friend.’ A next of friend is simply a person who has been chosen to stand in the shoes of the minor and pursue claims on their behalf. Typically, the next of friend is a parent, legal guardian, or relative of the child. The role of the next of friend is to act in the best interest of the minor and prosecute their rights.
The Legal Proceedings
The litigation process is the same for minors as it is for adults except that the representative of the child makes the decisions as to how to prosecute the claim with the personal injury attorney they have retained to bring the claim. That representative may appear for depositions or testify in court as necessary. The minor may be permitted and/or required to testify if the Court deems the child is of sufficient mental capacity to understand the oath witnesses must take.
What Happens When a Minor’s Lawsuit Settles?
If the case reaches a settlement, the court will appoint a guardian ad litem to act as an independent evaluator of the case and help make decisions as to what to do with the settlement proceeds. The guardian ad litem will communicate directly with the attorney, the next of friend, and the minor is necessary to see that the needs of the minor are met. Once the guardian ad litem is satisfied that the settlement plans are in the best interest of the minor, he/she will set up a minor settlement hearing in order to seek the court’s approval of the settlement. The minor is generally not able to receive any funds until he/she reaches the age of majority (18).