Thank you to the State Bar of California which produced the “Kids and the Law” of which this is an extract. For the entire booklet go to: Children’s law

In general, legal actions are divided into two categories: civil and criminal. Civil actions are lawsuits (often between private individuals or businesses) in which someone sues someone else for monetary damages (money) or something else to compensate or offer protection for a wrong that was committed. When a civil case has to do with an injured child, parents are often involved.

Minors can, however, enforce their own legal rights in a civil case as long as they do so through a guardian ad litem. A guardian ad litem is a responsible adult appointed by a court to pursue a case in a child’s name and to work to protect and defend the child’s rights. In many instances, the court-appointed guardian is the child’s parent. Along with the power to sue, children can be sued, often through their court-appointed guardian ad litem. (FC §§ 6600, 6601)

Are there any deadlines for filing lawsuits?

Yes. When filing lawsuits, adults and children alike must abide by statutes of limitations. A statute of limitations is a law that sets a time limit on the filing of particular lawsuits. These time limitations vary according to the type of action involved but are relatively standard for the following cases:

Personal injury—two years from the time of the injury. (CCP § 335.1)

Breach of contract—four years from the day the contract was broken, or two years if the contract was never in writing. (CCP §§ 337, 339)

Damages to real or personal property—three years from the date the damage occurred. (CCP § 338(b)(c))

In addition, California as some other important laws relating to civil actions brought by minors. First, if a child is injured before or at the time of birth, the lawsuit (other than medical malpractice suits) must be filed within six years of the birth. (CCP § 340.4) A minor’s medical malpractice suit must be initiated within three years, or one year after the parents discovered (or should have discovered) the injury unless he or she is under 6 years old. If the child is under age 6, the suit must be initiated within three years or prior to the child’s eighth birthday, whichever period is longer. (CCP § 340.5) Lawsuits alleging child sexual abuse generally can be brought until the person is 26 years old or until three years have passed since the person discovered (or could have reasonably discovered) that his or her injuries were related to sexual abuse, whichever period is longer. (CCP § 340.1)

In most cases, however, the statute of limitations clock starts when the child reaches 18. This means, for example, that a 12-year-old boy injured in a traffic collision could wait until two years after his 18th birthday to begin an action. (CCP § 352)

 This information is provided for educational purposes only. For more information about divorce and family law in Los Angeles  please visit www.la-familylaw.com