Children's Claims

Legal Considerations

A minor child (anyone under the age of 18) is legally incompetent to sue or be sued.  Thus, any claim for an injury to a child must either be made by the child following its 18th birthday, or must be brought by the parent, guardian or a court appointed conservator on behalf of the child. 

For that reason, the statute of limitations for an injury to a child is one year after their 18th birthday. 

Statutes of Limitations on Injuries to Children

If the child is young or the parents do not believe it is in the child or family's best interest to wait until the child turns 18 there are a couple of different options available to the family and child. 

Who can make a claim on behalf of a child?

First, any one of the parents or a legal guardian can make the claim and bring the action on behalf of the child as “Next Friend.”  The term “Next Friend” is merely legalese for a person who appears in a lawsuit on behalf of an incompetent or minor plaintiff but who is not a party to the lawsuit in that capacity.  A parent or guardian can bring both a personal action individually and still act as the “Next Friend.” 

Courts Can Intercede in Children's Claims

The other option is to set up a conservatorship on behalf of the minor child and have the court appoint a conservator who’s sole responsibility is to ensure that the child’s best interest is taken into consideration during the litigation or claim process.  In cases involving serious injuries to minor children, a conservatorship is almost always necessary because Iowa law requires that a conservatorship be established anytime a child is to receive more than $10,000.00.  Depending on the situation, a parent, close relative, attorney, or completely independent individual may be appointed as the conservator.  Who is best to be appointed as the conservator will vary from case to case.  It is important to recognize and understand in these situations where a child is seriously injured, the injury lawyer’s obligation and duty is to the child; it is to ensure that the child’s financial and medical needs are first and foremost.  When a conservatorship is created, the ultimate last word is with the Court who must approve any and all settlements and disbursements including any attorney fee agreements or other disbursements from the conservatorship.  It is also the Court’s responsibility to ensure that the best interest of the injured child is met.

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