According to the law, anybody who is injured in any type of no-fault accident may be eligible to claim compensation for their injuries. In most cases, the injured person is the one who speaks directly to a personal injury solicitor and liaises with them throughout the claim. If the claimant is too ill to do this, a family member or friend may speak to the personal injury solicitor on their behalf.
So what happens if the injured person is a child who is too young to fight for their own rights or if the person is an adult who has some form of mental disability that renders them incapable of making competent decisions? When the injured person is a minor or an adult who lacks the mental ability to make sound decisions, they need somebody capable who will look out for their welfare and protect their legal rights. This person is known as a litigation friend.
Who Can Be A Litigation Friend?
A litigation friend could be a parent, guardian, family member, friend, professional advocate or social worker, a solicitor or someone who has a lasting or enduring power of attorney.
Who Appoints A Litigation Friend?
Any eligible person can apply to be someone’s litigation friend or they may be appointed by the court on request from another person involved in the case.
Whether you apply or are court-appointed, you will have to first pass a court check to determine whether or not you are suitable for the role. As part of this check, you will have to fill in a certificate of suitability explaining why you should be approved as a litigation friend.
If you are requesting the court to appoint someone as a litigation friend, you will need to submit evidence that the person you are nominating is suitable, willing, and capable of carrying out their duties, and that they agree to be the litigation friend.
In deciding whether you are suitable to be a litigation friend, the court will first check to make sure that there is no conflict of interest between you and the person you are representing. They will also want to ensure that you are fair and objective, and capable of making decisions in a competent manner.
If nobody is suitable or willing to take on this responsibility or there are no suitable litigation friends, the Official Solicitor takes on this role.
Responsibilities Of A Litigation Friend
Agreeing to be a litigation friend is no small responsibility. When you agree to be a litigation friend, you are agreeing to do whatever it takes to protect the person’s legal rights. This may include:
- Attending court hearings;
- Making decisions on behalf of the injured person;
- Consulting with their solicitor regularly to stay updated on the proceedings, get legal advice from them when necessary, and direct the proceedings so that they are in the other person’s best interests;
- Dealing with all correspondence related to the case;
- Keeping the person you are representing updated on what’s happening to the extent that they can understand so that you can take their wishes and feelings into consideration when making major decisions;
- Approving and signing all legal documents;
- Pay any fees ordered by the court.
You should know that, as a litigation friend, although you are responsible for attending court whenever there’s a hearing, you cannot act as the other person’s solicitor.
When The Appointment Ends
Regardless of how you came to be a litigation friend, whether you applied or were appointed by the court, this is not an indefinite commitment. Typically, you would continue being a litigation friend as long as the case is in progress and the person you are representing is under 18 years of age or the adult you are representing regains their mental capacity.
Your obligation ends when the case is settled and the person you are representing receives the settlement amount. If the person who receives the settlement is a minor under the age of 18, then your obligation continues until they turn 18.
Regardless of whether the case is closed or still in progress, if you are representing a minor your obligation ends when they turn 18.
If you are representing an adult who does not have the mental capacity to make their own decisions, your obligation ends if they recover and regain their mental capacity.
Under certain circumstances, your appointment may also end if you or another person submits a special application to the court to appoint a replacement litigation friend. You will have to give an explanation as to why you want to end your appointment. If someone else applies, they will have to give strong reasons as to why they should be appointed as a litigation friend to replace you.