First, protect the children.
A child may be injured by another person’s careless, reckless or intentional acts. In those cases, the child’s parents or guardian may bring suit against the person or persons responsible for the child’s injuries. The child is not a proper party in a lawsuit to recover damages for his or her injuries.
If a child has a guardian, the guardian may sue or defend in court on behalf of the child. If a child does not have a guardian or other fiduciary, the child may sue by a next friend or a guardian ad litem. A child’s mother or father may serve as the child’s next friend or guardian ad litem, subject to approval by the court.
The court will appoint a guardian ad litem for a child not otherwise represented in a lawsuit, or will make another order as it deems proper for the protection of the child.
If an action is brought for a minor by a next friend or guardian ad litem, the friend or guardian may not receive any money or property of the child until he or she files a surety bond with the court, as security for the faithful performance of his or her duties.
A next friend or guardian will not be personally liable for costs of the suit, unless by special order of the court. The court may allow the next friend or guardian a reasonable compensation for his or her services.
The time limits for filing suit do not begin to run until the minor reaches 18 years of age. At that time, the person who suffered injuries as a minor may file suit in his or her own name, as an adult. However, because evidence spoils, memories fade, and witnesses move (or die) over time, it is often wise to file suit on behalf of a minor as soon as possible after the injury-causing event.
The above article is an excerpt from Arizona Laws 101: A Handbook for Non-Lawyers, 2nd Edition (Fenestra Books, 2012), by Donald A. Loose, republished with the author’s permission.
Disclaimer: Laws change constantly. Specific legal advice should be obtained regarding any legal matter. The information contained on this website does not constitute legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is created.
Donald A. Loose is an Arizona attorney, and the author of Arizona Laws 101: A Handbook for Non-Lawyers, and Estate Planning in Arizona: What You Need to Know. Mr. Loose is a regular guest on radio shows featuring local newsmaker interviews. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.