In a typical personal injury lawsuit, the injury victim him- or herself files a lawsuit against the individual or entity allegedly responsible for causing his or her injury. When a person’s loved one resides in a nursing home, however, the loved one may not be in a position to file a lawsuit to recover damages:
- Perhaps the loved one does not wish to file a lawsuit, believing that filing a lawsuit will cost too much, take too long, or is too troublesome;
- Perhaps the loved one is not aware that he or she has suffered an injury – for instance, he or she may not be aware that a nursing home employee stole a precious piece of jewelry from him or her or has been giving him or her the wrong medication;
- Perhaps still the loved one does not have the mental capacity to understand his or her surroundings, let alone understand how to protect his or her rights through the filing of a lawsuit.
Becoming a “Next Friend” in a Lawsuit
In the legal context, a “next friend” is an individual who brings a lawsuit on behalf of another person to assert that other person’s legal rights. The next friend is not technically a legal guardian for the individual – legal guardians have a number of obligations and responsibilities toward the person that a “next friend” simply does not – but the next friend simply prosecutes a case on behalf of the individual. “Next friends” are commonly seen when the injury victim is a child (as children cannot typically sue or be sued, or recover monetary damages) or the victim has been declared incompetent or incapacitated.
Although a “next friend” is typically related to the individual for whom he or she is acting as next friend (such as a parent who acts as next friend for his or her child), the next friend does not necessarily need to be related to the individual. However, the next friend’s interests cannot be adverse to the individual. Not only this, if the person is not a child and has not been declared to be incompetent or incapacitated, a court may not let the next friend proceed with his or her suit on the person’s behalf. In the context of a nursing home injury, for example, a next friend cannot file a lawsuit on behalf of a resident who is competent and aware of his or her rights but who simply does not wish to pursue legal action against the home following an injury.
Contact an Experienced Orange County Elder Injury Law Firm
Case Barnett Law is a California law firm dedicated to helping protect the elderly from nursing home abuse and assisting them in recovering compensation for nursing home injuries. Learn how we can assist your loved one, especially if your loved one has been declared incompetent or incapacitated, or is otherwise unaware of his or her circumstances. Call Case Barnett Law at (949) 861-2990, or you can submit a contact form.