Making a personal injury claim for an injured child is fraught with emotion and uncertainty, for most parents or guardians. It is important to point out that if a child is injured in an accident or because of someone else’s negligence, they may be entitled to compensation and the parent or guardian can make the claim on the child’s behalf.
In the UK the rules and procedures for making a personal injury claim are slightly different when they involve children. The parent or guardian can bring the injury claim as soon as the accident has happened or anytime up to the child’s 18th birthday. Once a child reaches the age of 18 yrs., if the parent or guardian has not made an injury claim on their behalf, they can make their own compensation claim and they have 3 yrs., after their 18th birthday to start the claim.
The parent or guardian making an injury claim on behalf of a child must be independent and able to represent the best interests of the child. In most cases this does not present a problem but in a few cases someone other than the parent or guardian has to act on the child’s behalf and bring the claim for compensation.
One example of this is where a parent or guardian is driving a car and, the child is in the same car, which hits another vehicle because of the fault of the parent or guardian. In these circumstances, because the parent or guardian may be responsible for the accident they are not allowed to act on the child’s behalf but another parent, close relative or grandparent may be able to act on the child’s behalf. It should be noted that the parent or guardian at fault for the accident would not be paying the compensation but their insurance company would pay out if the claim was successful.
Children by their very nature are inquisitive and therefore can be exposed to a number of risks and, in some cases, suffer injuries in similar circumstances to adults. Common areas where children are involved in personal injury accidents include, lifts, school, holiday resorts, as a pedestrian or cyclist and even using their toys. Older children can be involved in workplace accidents, for example if they have taken an apprenticeship or part-time work whilst studying at college.
Personal injury claims made on behalf of children proceed on a slightly different basis than those involving adults. Any compensation agreement, even if the other party admits fault (liability), must be approved by a Court. This is to ensure that the child’s interests are being protected and that the amount of compensation agreed is the right amount for the injury and any subsequent losses or costs of treatment and care.
The Judge will look at all the circumstances including the medical evidence and will, if satisfied as above, approve the amount of compensation agreed. The Judge will then order the compensation to be paid, by the other party, into the Court Funds Office and be held in a Special Investment Account which can be accessed when the child reaches the age of 18 yrs.
It is also possible to periodically release some of the funds, for exceptional circumstances, before the child reaches the age of 18 yrs., but ordinarily the funds remain protected by the Courts. The Courts may, on occasions, agree to release some of the funds at the time of the Court Hearing for good and compelling reasons for example meeting treatment costs or to fund particular educational needs.
The Courts are also increasingly allowing the funds to be invested in ISA’s together with other investment vehicles and specialist advice is required regarding these options.
At Co-op Legal Services most personal injury compensation claims can be dealt with on a No Win No Fee basis.