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Tel: 020 8520 1021.
When a child suffers a serious injury, you may be able to make a personal injury claim on their behalf.
When a child is hurt in an accident and suffers a serious injury, as a parent or guardian, you are likely to experience distress, hurt, anger or even depression. If your child’s injury occurred as a result of an accident or through negligence, it is worth remembering that they may be entitled to compensation. As a parent or a guardian, you can make the claim on the child's behalf.
Before doing so, it’s important to understand the legal implications of making a personal injury claim for a child – whether it’s a minor or catastrophic injury – and how this differs from an adult making a similar claim. In this article, the specialist personal injury claim solicitors at CCH & Co. will walk you through the process of making a personal injury claim for children.
As with adults, children can be involved in accidents through no fault of their own or they can suffer as a result of negligence. For instance, they may have slipped on a damaged pavement, fallen in the park, suffered a burn at a nursery when a carer spilt hot drinks, broken an arm in a play centre due to faulty equipment, among many other scenarios.
Here are some common examples where children can be injured:
Despite the grounds for bringing about a case being similar, the process by which children and adults make a personal injury claim does differ.
While injuries suffered by children through accidents or negligence are just as applicable for personal injury claims as those suffered by adults, there are several key differences in the way these cases are treated.
These differences exist because those under the age of 18 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland can’t make a personal injury claim. This is due to legislation stating that those under the age of 18 lack the sufficient legal ‘capacity’ to represent themselves in law. In Scotland, the age of capacity is 16.
Parents and guardians are left with two choices to make in the event of pursuing a personal injury claim for a child. They can:
To decide which option is best for you and your child, let’s look at these two options in some more depth.
You may want to wait for your child to turn 18 (16 in Scotland) so that they gain legal capacity and can decide for themselves whether or not they want to make a claim.
However, once your child reaches the age of capacity, they only have three years to make a compensation claim. This is in line with adults having three years to make a claim. After this point, the limitation on their claim will expire.
While an under 18-year-old can’t represent themselves in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, an adult acting on their behalf as a ‘litigation friend’ can represent them. A litigation friend will make decisions and sign any relevant legal documentation on behalf of the child.
While this is often a parent or a guardian, a litigation friend can also be a carer, family member or friend. The litigation friend always has to have the child’s best interests in mind when acting on their behalf. As such, they have to be independent of the case. For example, if a parent were being blamed for an accident in which the child was injured, they would not be able to represent their child, as they would not be independent of the case.
The amount of compensation awarded can be dependent on several areas but is primarily determined by two categories in particular: general damages and special damages.
General damages are linked to the suffering or pain a child endured as a result of the accident or incident. The injury’s severity and the relevant prognosis will affect the level of compensation.
Special damages are linked to the financial aspects of the accident or incident. This could include travel costs and medical expenses incurred. It may also take future care costs into consideration too.
For example, if the injury was severe or catastrophic, it may cover treatments or care that may be required in the months and years ahead. In some instances, it may even include a predicted loss of earnings if it is expected that the child will be left unable to work in later life.
While the process by which damages are awarded is similar to how adult cases work, there’s a distinct difference when it comes to claims being settled outside of court. This is because a judge must approve any agreement reached outside of court involving the personal injury claim of a child.
This is called an ‘infant settlement hearing’ and exists to protect the child further. It allows a judge to examine and ensure that the amount of compensation being offered by a defendant is satisfactory and relevant to the circumstances.
This also allows the court to oversee arrangements so that the compensation award is held in a trust fund and managed until the child turns 18 (16 in Scotland), although some of the money is accessible now if the child is in need of it. Generally, litigation friends will not have access to any compensation awarded as part of a child’s personal injury claim. However, there are incidents where small sums of compensation will be released to the litigation friend.
Before you decide which option to take – whether claiming now or allowing the child to claim in the future – it is essential that you speak to a qualified personal injury claim solicitor with experience in cases involving children first. Based in East London, we have helped families claim compensation for their injured child. Our first meeting is always free, so you can discuss your case confidentially with us and it gives us a chance to review and discuss your options.
Our team at CCH & Co. offers this expertise and experience to any concerned parent or guardian. Whether you want to act today, or allow your child to act in future, our approachable and experienced personal injury solicitors will listen to your case and offer legal advice that is in the best interest of your child.
If you choose us to represent you and your child, rest assured that we’ll leave no stone unturned to ensure that they receive justice and fair compensation – helping them to start adulthood with some financial security.
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This post is not legal advice and should not replace professional advice tailored to your specific circumstances. It is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.