Can a Minor File a Personal Injury Claim?


All courts in Missouri uphold the best interests of children as their highest priority. This standard isn’t restricted to custody cases and adoptions but also applies to personal injury claims. Just like adults, children sometimes fall victim to the careless, reckless, or wrongful actions of others and the result is serious injury. But can a minor file a personal injury claim in Missouri?

Minor filing a personal injury claim in Missouri

Minors and Personal Injury Claims in Missouri

Anyone under the age of 18 does not have legal standing in Missouri. Children may not sign contracts, therefore they cannot accept a settlement in a personal injury claim. So what happens when a child suffers a significant injury due to someone else’s actions or negligence? There are two ways to handle a claim for damages like medical expenses, a parent’s lost wages, and compensation for pain and suffering after an injury to a minor. Either an adult representative—known as a “next friend” in a minor’s personal injury claim—may file a claim on behalf of the child, or the child can wait until after their 21st birthday to file a personal injury claim on their own behalf. Speak with our personal injury lawyer in St. Louis to discuss the specifics of your case.

How A Child May Recover Compensation in a Missouri Personal Injury Claim

Parents may wish to file a personal injury claim on behalf of their injured child, particularly since they suffer the financial damages from their child’s injury; however, Missouri law does not allow a parent to file a claim for a child. Instead, the court assigns a representative or a guardian ad litem to the case. The parent may initiate the personal injury claim by acting as the child’s “Next Friend” but may not sign a settlement agreement for the child. Instead, the impartial ad litem represents the child’s best interests and may sign on behalf of the child. If the court doesn’t approve the settlement signed on behalf of a child, it becomes unenforceable, so the court’s guardian ad litem assigned to the child prevents this by ensuring court approval. If the judge approves a large settlement, they may also require a guardian ad litem to manage the child’s settlement until they turn 18.

If a child is over the age of 14, they must give legal approval for the parent to act as “Next Friend” in the case as well as for the guardian ad litem to represent them.

Tolling the Statute of Limitations for a Child’s Personal Injury Claim

Like all states, Missouri sets time limits, or statutes of limitations, for lawsuits, including personal injury claims. Missouri has a uniquely generous five-year statute of limitations compared to most states which limit the time clock to two years. With limited exceptions, a court will toss out a personal injury claim brought before a judge if the case exceeds five years from the date the injury occurred; however, the state delays—or “tolls”—the statute of limitations for children injured by another party’s actions. When a child suffers a preventable injury caused by a person or business, they have up to five years after their 21st birthday to file a personal injury claim. The state essentially stops the time clock and then begins it again when the child turns 21.

Medical malpractice cases in Missouri have different standards for a statute of limitations, including for minors who suffer malpractice injuries. In medical malpractice cases, the statute of limitations drops to two years after the date the child turns 18.