Under Texas law, minors cannot file a lawsuit on their own. They lack legal capacity.
However, minors who have been injured can assert their rights in a lawsuit to recover compensation. Minors who wish to do so must have a legal representative, known as a next friend (traditionally known as a next of friend).
Texas law allows an adult approved by the court to file a lawsuit for people without legal capacity (like minors).
Sometimes people cannot make reliable decisions or take care of themselves. Some suffer from mental illness like dementia or brain defects. These folks are said to not be of sound mind, known by the legal term non compos mentis.
People who cannot take care of themselves lack legal capacity. That means there are many legal things that they cannot do:
Under Texas law, the category of people who have no legal capacity includes minors. Texas law defines minors as people under 18 years of age.
In certain cases, minors can be declared adults by a Texas court if they are deemed able to care and make decisions for themselves. The legal term for this declaration is emancipation.
In order to petition the court for emancipation, minors in Texas must be:
Most minors have a legal guardian of some kind. This may be a parent or family member.
However, when there is no family member who will care for the minor, the court can appoint a guardian to look after the minor, and help make decisions on the minor’s behalf.
As people who lack legal capacity, minors cannot file lawsuits by themselves. But minors who have been harmed need a way to recover compensation from the person or company that caused their injuries or property damage.
Fortunately, the Texas legal system provides a way for minors to protect their rights by suing in court through a representative. This legal representative is known as a next friend.
Rule 44 of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure allows minors and others who lack legal capacity to sue in court with a “next friend” representative.
Under Rule 44:
Anyone filing a lawsuit must make many decisions, including:
Rule 44 allows the Next Friend to make all these decisions for the minor, just like a legal guardian would decide things like where the minor will attend school.
Most lawsuits involve costs like court and attorney’s fees, as well as expenses for investigations and expert testimony. Under Rule 44, the Next Friend must give proof or security that any expenses owed by the minor in the lawsuit will be paid by the next friend.
If a lawsuit is binding, the person who filed the lawsuit cannot file another lawsuit later for the same accident or injury.
The lawsuit is binding if the judge or jury gave a decision in the case or the parties signed an agreement to end the lawsuit.
So if the next friend agrees to a settlement, the minor cannot file another lawsuit later for the same injuries. This includes lawsuits the minor could file after becoming an adult.
Like a legal guardian, the next friend can be a parent or family member. If there is no family member able to serve as a next friend, a friend or responsible party can be appointed by the court.
A minor who has been injured has rights in Texas. That includes rights to a personal injury lawsuit to recover money and compensation for their injuries and property damages.
Justinian & Associates has successfully represented minors in Austin personal injury lawsuits. We are compassionate and understanding, and many of our attorneys are parents themselves. We feel deeply and personally the plight of injured minors.
But we are also experienced, knowledgeable and fearless. We have stood up to many bullies and made them pay for their carelessness and misdeeds. We have the skills and resources to take on any adversary, and aim only to deliver justice to our clients, whatever that means for them.
Our personal injury law firm offers an entirely free consultation with an experienced Austin personal injury attorney (not a “screener” or paralegal.) Our attorneys will listen to the specifics of your situation, and explain your options under Texas law.
If you need us to meet you somewhere discreet or safe, we can always arrange a consultation wherever is convenient for you.
There is no obligation. But you can lose your legal rights if you wait too long to act. Contact us by phone, text or email and set up a free consultation.