Lawsuits, by their very nature, are typically adversary proceedings so the idea of a friendly lawsuit seems counterintuitive. However, at times, parties that agree on all terms of a settlement may need court approval. The parties must, therefore, file pleadings and have a hearing in front of a judge to finalizethe judicial process.
As an auto accident lawyer, I regularly participate in “friendly lawsuits” when representing injured minor children. Following these procedures protects the interests of my adult clients and their children and helps facilitate efficient settlement of their claims, especially with significant injuries and damages.
Court-Appointment of Guardian Ad Litem Protects the Child’s Interests
Because minors are not legally able to enter into contracts, they cannot sue or agree to a sum of money to settle a claim until they attain the age of 18. So, for example, if a 14 year-old child signed a waiver and a
settlement agreement, that agreement would be void, meaning the child
could sue for damages once he or she turns 18. This legal doctrine would make
settlement with minors nearly impossible without a means of asking for
court intervention. After all, an insurance company is not going to fork over thousands of dollars with no guarantee that it won’t be sued down
This contract law serves two very important purposes. First, the
law recognizes that minor children lack the maturity to fully understand their rights and to make decisions that are in their own best
interests. Minor children are not bound by poor contract terms they
might otherwise have agreed upon. Second, sadly, some unscrupulous adults might take
advantage of a child’s inexperience. Children are prevented falling prey during unbalanced negotiations.
Texas law overcomes this barrier to settlement by requiring appointment of a guardian ad litem
to represent the child’s best interests. The guardian ad litem is an
outside party, unconnected to the child’s lawyer and parents, who
reviews and accepts the settlement agreement from the standpoint of what is best for the child, in essence stepping into the more mature child’s shoes. The guardian ad litem is court-appointed, and so filing a
friendly lawsuit is a crucial step in making this appointment. I have also served as the ad litem on numerous occasions.
Court Judgment Binding on the Parties
Friendly lawsuits also protect the insurance company and
defendants from future lawsuits arising out of the claim. The parties
file a joint motion asking the court to issue a judgment pursuant to the terms of the settlement agreement. The minor child is bound by the
judgment and cannot argue incapacity that would render a settlement
Protect Your Child’s Rights to Fair Treatment After an Auto Accident
Berenson Law Firm has
helped numerous parents and their minor children win their rightful settlement awards
during 35 years of practice. I can guide your family through the special processes involved in settling your child’s claim. Make sure your
child’s rights are fully protected during settlement negotiations and
trial. Call me for your free consultation in my Dallas-Fort Worth law
office at 817-885-8000 or toll free at 888-801-8585