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Why Can't Minors File Lawsuits?

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on April 27, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

You've probably read about kids suing companies. In more recent years, you've probably also seen stories about kids suing their bullies. But did you know that these kids, who are all under the age of 18, have not actually filed the lawsuits themselves? They can't.

Federal and state laws generally don't permit minors to file lawsuits. This is because minors often don't have the capacity to contract, hire an attorney or sign court documents.

This doesn't mean kids can't sue. Kids sue all the time. What it means is that the law has developed separate rules for minors who have had their rights violated or who have been injured.

If a minor wants to wait until he is 18 to file a lawsuit, he usually can. The law will generally toll -- or pause -- the statute of limitations until the minor turns 18. At that point, the child is an adult and has a certain amount of years to file the lawsuit on his own behalf. This is a good option for when the child is in his late teens or doesn't want his parents involved.

But if there isn't a parental issue, or if time is of the essence, a minor can file a lawsuit with the help of his parents. A parent or guardian can file a lawsuit on the child's behalf. The parent is considered the minor's "next friend" and is tasked with representing his interests.

The court can also opt to appoint a guardian ad litem. These individuals, who are often attorneys, ensure that the child's interests are being met. They are generally only appointed when a minor files a lawsuit against his parents, there is a family law issue, or if the judge feels that it is necessary for justice to be met.

Kids sue -- they just can't do it themselves. So don't disregard the rights of children. You may find yourself slapped with a lawsuit and in need of an experienced attorney.

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