Children and civil claims

A child can sue for damages but the court action must be brought in the child's name by a next friend who is an adult who guarantees to pay costs if they are ordered against the child. Usually a parent or guardian acts as the child's next friend. A claim can be lodged at any time before the child turns 21 years [Limitation of Actions Act 1936 (SA) s 45].

Any compensation awarded to a child is held in trust, usually by the Public Trustee, until a child turns 18 years. However, a court can order funds to be released earlier if it is in the best interests of the child (for example, if the child needs the money to pay for medical or education expenses).

If a child is sued, the action can be started in the usual way by serving the documents on the child, but the case is defended on the child's behalf by an adult (usually a parent) who is called a guardian ad litem or litigation guardian. This person defends the proceedings in the name of the child. A writ can also be served on a child by serving it on the child's parent or guardian.

Where a case in which either the plaintiff or the defendant is a child is settled out of court, the settlement must be approved by the court. Usually, this means that the written opinion of counsel must be given to the court explaining that the settlement is for the benefit of the child, having regard to all of the evidence. This is so whether or not a summons or writ has actually been issued.

Victims of crime

A child, like any other victim of crime, can apply for compensation for injury caused by a criminal offence. See Victims of Crime.

Children and civil claims  :  Last Revised: Tue Jan 7th 2014
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