The following blog article was updated in January 2022.
Experienced Attorneys Helping Minors File Injury Lawsuits in Washington
When a minor is injured, parents or guardians of the minor may wonder if the child is able to file a lawsuit on his or her own against the negligent party. The process for filing an injury claim for a child is somewhat like an adult, but there are key differences that guardians must know. There are laws and statutes that apply to minors specifically in these types of cases; therefore, it is best that parents and the minor consult with an attorney prior to filing the lawsuit.
The Minor Designation in Washington
Any child under the age of 18 is legally considered a minor in the state of Washington. Minors are not allowed to file suits on their own. Instead, a guardian appointed by the courts does so on the minor’s behalf. Guardians are considered those who have the child’s best interests in mind, and who do what is best for the minor during the lawsuit.
To file a lawsuit on a minor’s behalf, a petition is sent to the court to appoint a guardian for the claim. Usually, the guardian is the child’s parents. However, there are instances when the courts will appoint someone other than the minor’s parents.
For example, if the child is injured in an accident caused by one of the parents, then a parent is not suitable for guardianship. The parent’s obvious conflict of interest would impede his or her ability to look out for the child’s best interests in the lawsuit; therefore, the courts would typically appoint a third-party guardian who has no stake in the outcome of the lawsuit. If there is any chance that the defense will use the parents as part of the blame for the child’s injury, it is best to seek a third-party guardian.
The Process of Filing on Behalf of a Child in Washington
Once a guardian is appointed, that guardian files the lawsuit on behalf of the child. From there, the all process is like an adult filing a lawsuit for him or herself. There is a summons and complaint filed with the clerk, and the guardian pays the filing fee at the time when the suit is filed.
The summons informs the defendant about the personal injury lawsuit and provides them with time to respond to the lawsuit. The complaint, on the other hand, discusses the action and what the defendant has allegedly done to warrant the suit. The complaint has specific requirements, and it must be specific. Thus, it is best if an attorney completes the complaint on behalf of the plaintiff.
Statute of Limitations
There is a statute of limitations for guardians, which is typically three years from the date of the accident. For claims involving minor children, the deadline is typically pushed until the child’s 18th birthday. Therefore, the child will have three years from their 18th birthday to file, or until he or she is 21 years old.
Speak with an Attorney Regarding an Accident with a Minor
Cases involving guardians and minors are extremely complex. Therefore, it is in your best interest to consult an injury attorney. A personal injury lawyer can advise you of your rights and help determine which route is best for filing the suit on behalf of a minor. Meet with the Washington accident attorneys at Brett McCandlis Brown & Conner, PLLC now for a free consultation by calling 800-925-1875 or requesting more information through our online contact form.