Children are particularly vulnerable to accidents and mishaps. And they are just as entitled to seek compensation as adults.
WE all know accidents can happen. And children, with their busy lives that take them from school to parks, sports clubs to playing outdoors, can be particularly vulnerable.
Fortunately, most bumps and bruises are easily mended and just part of the ‘rough and tumble’ of growing up.
But sometimes children can be left injured or traumatised by an incident or through negligence that simply shouldn’t have happened and is no fault of their own.
For parents and carers, the priority in those cases is often just to ensure their little one is going to be alright.
But then reality can sink in: what if their injury is life-changing either now or in the future, what if it happens to someone else’s child, and what about the wider impact it might have on other members of the family?
And can they make a legal claim for compensation, just like adults?
Claims specialist at Heptonstalls Solicitors, Casey Weston, points out that while children under the age of 18 cannot instruct a solicitor, they can still seek compensation through the courts.
“A child cannot make a claim on their own behalf until their 18th birthday, but an adult can make a claim on their behalf.
“This adult is called a ‘litigation friend’, and is usually a parent or guardian, but can also be a family member, friend or solicitor.”
A litigation friend can instruct a solicitor on a ‘no win, no fee’ basis. Here’s what happens next:
First a court will check the litigation friend is suitable. It will check whether their interests conflict with those of the child’s and that they are able to make decisions about the case in a fair and competent way.
A litigation friend and solicitor can’t just settle a claim on behalf of a child. The courts must be involved, to ensure the child’s interests are fully protected.
An infant approval hearing is held, during which a judge considers the settlement to ensure it is fair and in the child’s best interests.
A barrister – a lawyer who specialises in legal research and advocacy – prepares a written opinion to present to the judge, confirming that the offer is reasonable.
The judge considers all the evidence, including medical evidence. If there are likely to be future complications from the injury, they may want to wait for further evidence.
If the judge is satisfied, he orders the offer to be accepted and the claim to conclude.
Compensation is not simply handed to the child. It’s invested in the Court Fund until he or she reaches 18.
Normally the money can’t be touched until that point. However an application can be made to the court to release some funds if necessary – perhaps to enable the child to further their education by buying books or equipment.
After their 18th birthday, the child can apply to the Court Funds Office for the money to be released.
The first step in any claim is to speak to a solicitor. Heptonstalls Solicitors is an award-winning team that specialises in medical negligence and personal injury claims, as well as offering a range of typical legal services.
For more information, visit Heptonstalls’ offices in Goole and Pontefract or click here