When does a claim or lawsuit have to be filed for a child? | Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

North Carolina law says a child has until one year beyond their 18th birthday to file a claim against the negligent party, however, many in the legal field feel that is usually not a good idea to wait that long, especially if the child is very young at the time of injury. This is because critical evidence could be lost during that time, witnesses move away or die, and other changing factors that could impact the case.

Since the law does not recognize a minor child as being legally capable of filing a lawsuit on their own behalf, a guardian ad litem is appointed to be the child’s “voice” in any claim or lawsuit filed. This person can be a family member, attorney, or another third-party.

The law requires that any settlement be approved by a judge before it becomes enforceable. Failure to do could allow the child to file their own lawsuit when they turn 18 because the courts may declare the child is not bound by the terms of the original settlement since judicial approval was not obtained.