It is possible for a person to initiate legal proceedings on a child/minor’s behalf.
Firstly, a claim would be lodged with the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB) and, if compensation is not awarded or an offer is rejected, they could proceed to court.
The term used for the person acting on behalf of a child or minor is a ‘next friend’.
The ‘next friend’ is the nominated person who is allowed to begin proceedings on behalf of the child in accordance with the rules of court.
It is a requirement that an application is made to the court with a consent signed by the ‘next friend’ and confirmation that they have no conflict of interest.
Often, a parent or legal guardian will be nominated as the ‘next friend’, but this is not always the case and it can be any fit or proper person who does not have a conflict with regards to the child’s interests.
Conflict of Interest
The claim is prosecuted by the solicitor taking instruction from the ‘next friend’ for the benefit of the child.
A person who may also be named in the proceedings as a defendant or third party may not act as a ‘next friend’ as there would be a conflict of interest between the ‘next friend’ and the child. The ‘next friend’ is in a fiduciary position regarding the child and cannot profit from their position and must act in the child’s best interest at all times.
Being a ‘next friend’ comes with certain responsibility that the nominated person must be aware of.
If an action is unsuccessful and the other party is entitled to an order for costs and the child has no estate then it is possible the ‘next friend’ could be liable for a costs order.
All injury compensation awards for children have to be approved by a court before payment.
An application is made to the judge of the court along with a legal opinion on the adequacy of the settlement offer and the judge rules on whether the settlement is sufficient.
The judge may wish to see updated medical reports to make his or her assessment. If the judge rules the settlement then an order is made and the money is lodged in court until the child is over 18 years of age.