What is a litigation friend?
Anyone who suffers an injury without being at fault might be entitled to make a personal injury claim within a specific time frame. Usually, it will be the victim to claim for compensation, but that’s not always the case.
If children or protected parties suffer a personal injury, they will need a competent adult to protect their legal rights and make a compensation claim on their behalf. This person will become their litigation friend.
A protected party is an adult who lacks mental abilities because of a pre-existing condition or a brain injury or is too ill to claim on their own. Children and protected parties are considered to lack the mental capacity for conducting legal proceedings.
What is a litigation friend?
A litigation friend is an adult who represents another individual in a personal injury claim. In common law, they are also known as the next friend. A next friend needs to act in the victim’s best interest and keep them updated with the case.
Litigation friends have complete authority over the legal proceedings. They will have to attend court hearings and meet with the solicitors. They can collect and present evidence and speak to witnesses as if they were the claimant.
When possible, they should always consult with the victim about the case and act according to their wishes. Otherwise, the litigation friend will have to make the decisions regarding the claim, like accepting a particular compensation amount or not.
Who can be a litigation friend?
Anyone can be a litigation friend, as long as they don’t have a conflict of interest with the victim and can represent them fairly and competently. Most often, the role will be fulfilled by a close friend or family member, but the litigation friend can also be a:
- legal guardian
- professional advocate
- social worker
- Court of Protection deputy
- another individual with a lasting power of attorney
There are certain situations in which an individual cannot assume the role of a litigation friend. For example, if a child gets hurt in a car accident, they are entitled to claim compensation regardless of liability. If one of the parents was driving the vehicle, they could not be appointed the child’s litigation friend due to a conflict of interest.
If no one is suitable to act as a litigation friend, the court may appoint an Official Solicitor. Official Solicitors are part of the Ministry of Justice and can legally represent children and protected parties in injury claims.
Can a solicitor be a litigation friend?
If the victim of an injury can’t find a suitable person to act on their behalf in a personal injury claim, they can ask a solicitor to be their litigation friend.
If the solicitor is willing to take on the responsibility, they will have to apply to be your litigation friend. A court will make sure they are suitable for the role before appointing them.
Who appoints a litigation friend?
There are two ways in which an individual can become a litigation friend:
If there is no deputy, a person can become a litigation friend for a child or protected party by filling in and serving a certificate of suitability without needing a court order. When applying to represent an adult, you must explain why you think they need someone to act on their behalf.
You can be directly appointed by the court. The court order can be released at the court’s initiative or upon application by any individual.
The application to be a litigation friend must be supported by evidence that you are suitable for the role. The evidence must convince the court that:
- you can justly and competently take charge of the claims procedure on behalf of the victim
- you have no conflict of interest with the person in question
- you consent to the appointment
If you are proposing a person as a litigation friend, you will need to send evidence to the court that they are willing, suitable and competent to fill the position.
What are the responsibilities of a litigation friend?
A litigation friend will be appointed to act on behalf of a child or a protected party, having their best interest in mind. They are not a party themselves, nor the advocate of the victim.
Being a litigation friend brings many responsibilities, so before taking on the role, an individual must be entirely sure they are willing to:
- attend court hearings if necessary
- make decisions regarding the claim
- approve and sign legal documents
- regularly consult with a solicitor and take legal advice
- keep updated on the proceedings
- deal with related correspondence
- ensure that the injured person attends all medical appointments
- keep the victim informed about the case and try to find what their wishes and feelings are
- give directions to solicitors keeping the victim’s interests in mind
- pay the fees requested by the court
- carefully consider any compensation offers
Becoming a litigation friend can be a long-time commitment. Depending on the victim’s injuries, some claims can take several years and could be very stressful and frustrating.
If you are not ready and fully committed to taking on the responsibility, it’s better to not rush into it. An Official Solicitor is always available to act on behalf of children and protected parties.
For more information on what being a litigation friend means, you can call 0800 678 1410 for a free consultation with a legal adviser.
How do I become a litigation friend?
If you want to represent another person in a personal injury claim, you can apply to be their litigation friend. Usually, you will have to:
Fill in a certificate of suitability with a statement of truth to demonstrate you can take a balanced and competent approach to the relevant issues.
Send a copy of the relevant form to the following:
- parents or legal guardians if you want to act as litigation friend for a child
- deputy, attorney or carer of the protected party you want to represent
- adult you wish to be litigation friend for
Fill in a certificate of service, which must state the name of the person served, the date and method of service, and the address to which you sent the certificate of suitability. The certificate of service proves to the court that the other parties involved in the lawsuit received the certificate of suitability.
Send both certificates together with your claim to the court.
If you need help, a solicitor can help you fill and send the relevant forms. You can contact a legal adviser by calling free on 0800 678 1410.
If you are already the victim’s legal deputy, you can directly act as their litigation friend without filling other forms. The court only needs a copy of the document appointing you deputy of the victim.
When does the role of litigation friend end?
A litigation friend is no longer required, and their role will come to an end in certain circumstances, including:
- when a child turns 18, they legally have the mental capacity to conduct proceedings themselves, so you will be released from your role as litigation friend
- whether the claim came to an end or not
- when a protected party regains their mental abilities or recovers from illness
- when the claim comes to an end, and you secured a suitable compensation award
- if you or someone else applies to the court for replacement, with a valid reason
After securing compensation for a child, the litigation friend needs to go to an approval hearing together with the victim so that a Judge will validate the compensation settlement.