In most states, a minor is a person who has not yet reached the age of 18. Since a minor does not have the legal capacity to sue or be sued, a court typically appoints a “guardian ad litem” to act on the minor’s behalf.
Texas protects the interests of minors through the appointment of a guardian ad litem in two distinct ways when it comes to personal injury claims. First, the courts recognize that a minor is likely incapable of understanding their rights and making good decisions in their best interest, leaving them open to unscrupulous parties who may take advantage of their inexperience to push through a poor settlement.
Secondly, it makes it possible for settlements to be reached more easily in personal injury cases. Because minors are not legally able to sign a waiver and settlement agreement, such an agreement would be void and the minor may choose to sue after he or she turns 18. Therefore, insurance companies are loathe to settle without adult representation.
The duties of a guardian ad litem are specific to his or her appointment and may include the filing of a lawsuit or defending a lawsuit. A guardian ad litem cannot be a minor, or have any conflicting interests with the minor. He or she is an outside party, separate from the child’s parents, who acts in the best interests of the minor. In Texas, the appointment of a guardian ad litem is done by the court.
The guardian ad litem’s basic power is to do whatever is necessary to protect the minor’s rights. He or she may propose a settlement, which requires the court’s approval. However, the power of the guardian ad litem is limited to the proceedings of the particular case. Once the case is over, the authority of the guardian ad litem ends.
If the court finds that the guardian ad litem is doing an inadequate job of representing the child, the guardian ad litem can be removed from the position as well. Further, if the child reaches the age of majority while the litigation is pending, the role of the guardian ad litem expires.
If you or someone you love has been injured as a result of a vehicle accident, our Texas personal injury attorneys have the experience and resources to help you through this difficult time and obtain just compensation for your injuries. Please call 800-248-6000 or contact us for a free consultation.
Justin is an attorney at Roberts & Roberts and focuses his practice on mass tort litigation, where he specializes in helping individuals who are harmed by recalled or unsafe pharmaceutical drugs and medical devices. He has earned recognition as a “Top 40 Under 40” Trial Lawyer by the National Trial Lawyers. Prior to joining Roberts & Roberts, Justin served as an attorney in all three branches of Texas’s state government, including as a Briefing Attorney on the Texas Supreme Court. He also represented electric and natural gas utilities in complex regulatory proceedings before the Public Utility Commission of Texas and the Railroad Commission of Texas. Justin is a published author in the St. Mary’s Law Journal.