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The Legal Process for Child Injury Claims - Part One

The legal process for child injury claims differs from the legal process for cases brought by adults. For starters, a child under the age of 18 is considered a minor. In Washington, a minor cannot f...

The legal process for child injury claims differs from the legal process for cases brought by adults. For starters, a child under the age of 18 is considered a minor. In Washington, a minor cannot file a lawsuit on his or her own. This can only be done by a guardian appointed by the court. A guardian is someone who the court believes will adequately protect the child's interests and do what is best for the child in the legal case that is being filed on the child's behalf.

To start a lawsuit, a petition must be filed, asking the court to appoint a suitable guardian who will bring the lawsuit on the child's behalf. Oftentimes the guardian appointed by the court will be the child's parent or parents. However, there may be a problem with using the child's parents to act as guardians. For example, if the child was injured in an automobile accident that was caused by the child's parent, then the child's claim against the parent creates a conflict of interest which will prohibit that parent from acting as the guardian in the lawsuit. But a conflict may still exist if the child merely has a potential claim against the parent. If there is any evidence that the defense might argue the parent was partially or wholly responsible for the child's injuries, then it is usually a good idea to find another person to act as guardian on the child's behalf. Once the court grants the petition, an order is entered stating that the guardian is authorized to bring a lawsuit on behalf of the child.

After the guardian is appointed by the court, then that person can legally file a lawsuit for the child. In addition to the petition, there are additional documents called pleadings that must be filed in court along with a fee paid to the clerk. These pleadings are called the summons and complaint. The summons informs the person being sued that a lawsuit is being filed and that a response to the lawsuit is due within a certain period of time. The complaint describes the particular cause of action that is being alleged against the person being sued. The complaint will also set forth facts which support the cause of action. A complaint must be reasonably specific and inform the person being sued of the grounds supporting the claim.

The person who files a lawsuit is called the plaintiff. The person or entity who is being sued is called the defendant. Technically, the plaintiff is considered the guardian acting on behalf of the child. The plaintiff must arrange to personally serve a copy of the summons and complaint on the defendant. You only have a certain amount of time to settle your case or file a lawsuit and then personally serve the defendant. In Washington, this time is usually 3 years from the date of the accident. This deadline is called the statute of limitations. In claims involving minor childrenBusiness Management Articles, the statute of limitations period is usually tolled (delayed) and will not start to run until the child's 18th birthday. Then the child has three years until the child's 21st birthday to settle the claim or file a lawsuit.

Article Tags: Child Injury Claims, Person Being Sued, Legal Process, Child Injury, Injury Claims, Person Being, Being Sued

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Christopher M. Davis is a Seattle attorney focusing personal injury cases. He is also known as a child accident lawyer and has written the the book 'Little Kids, Big Accidents' as a resource for parents of injured children. Learn more about Chris Davis and the Davis Law Group by visiting http://www.DavisLawGroupSeattle.com



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