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When a child, or an individual who is over 18 and has health issues that make it impossible for them to represent themselves, need to bring a claim against the those responsible for their injuries and losses, a Litigation Friend is usually appointed to assist them to take part in the Court process.
If you have been asked to be a Litigation Friend or think that this may be something that is needed for your friend or relative, it is important to understand what is involved.
| Understanding what it means to be a Litigation Friend in Court Proceedings
There are Court rules as to the paperwork that needs to be signed, but it should always be remembered that the main purpose of a Litigation Friend is to look after the interests of the person you represent, and to make sure that their rights are always protected.
Before you are appointed as a Litigation Friend we need to make sure that your interests are not in conflict with the person who you are looking to represent, (so for example if your child is a passenger in a car that you were driving when a crash happened, there may be suggestions that you were partially responsible for what happened and in those circumstances you are unlikely to be the right person to be named as your child’s representative).
Conflicts are rare but we would still need to check whether you were happy to take on the responsibilities that come with the job of being a Litigation Friend.
In a lot of cases involving a child, a family member such as a parent, or a grandparent is the obvious choice but it’s not something you have to agree to.
In other cases, those appointed under an individual’s Power of Attorney, or their will can help, or if there is no one suitable a professional advocate can be considered and appointed as a Litigation Friend.
The Court has the final decision as to whether the person nominated is suitable, but in many cases the Litigation Friend’s work starts well before the Court becomes involved, by providing instructions as to what the person who has been injured needs as far as rehabilitation is concerned, and in helping the person involved to understand any reports, correspondence or court documents that need to be considered.
| Being a litigation friend
As a Litigation Friend, you will take advice, and in relying on that advice, you should be protected in relation to any questions that arise after the case has finished.
Once the formal Court process is in place then the Litigation Friend would attend hearings and act as a voice for the child or person who, through ill health, lacks the capacity to instruct a solicitor, and progress proceedings themselves.
It is important to understand that if somebody lacks capacity that incapacity may not be permanent and there may be stages within the process where the individual concerned can make decisions for themselves, but when they cannot, you are there to consult with them whenever possible, before communicating their wishes, feelings, beliefs and values to us with your instructions.
We would discuss with you all aspects of the case at the beginning, explaining your responsibilities, from agreeing to the funding of the claim, to making decisions and making sure that any financial settlements are appropriately managed, for example, considering whether a Compensation Protection Trust is needed to protect means tested benefits after a large compensation payment has been agreed.
Without a Litigation Friend agreeing to act, it may be difficult for the individual concerned to get access to justice, and ultimately to get the rehabilitation and compensation that they are entitled to, to make things better, going forwards.
A Litigation Friend is put in place as a crucial safeguard for individuals who cannot express themselves or fully participate in legal proceedings. You are there to protect their rights and interests. You enable their voice to be heard.
If you have been asked to be a Litigation Friend, or think that a relative or friend needs one, and wants some further information, please get in touch on 0800 988 7756.
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