While none of us like to think about any harm coming to our little ones, accidents do happen and our children may be injured as a result. Such injuries may cause pain, distress, absence from school and even an inability to carry out hobbies and past-times.
If your child is unfortunate enough to be involved in an accident through no fault of their own, it is important to know that it may be possible to claim compensation on their behalf.
Here are some commonly asked questions about the process involved:-
When can a claim be made on behalf of my child?
In personal injury cases, the person bringing a claim is known as a Plaintiff. For a case to be successful, it must be shown that your child’s accident was caused due to the fault of another person who is known as the Defendant.
Can my child claim in their own right?
No – a child is not entitled to bring proceedings in their own right and therefore any compensation claim will be brought on their behalf by a responsible adult who is known as a Next Friend. Usually, a Next Friend is the child’s mother or father or someone with parental responsibility.
Are there time limits in making a claim on behalf of my injured child?
Normally, personal injury claims must be made within 3 years of the accident occurring. However, where the injury is suffered by a child, this period is extended to 3 years after the child has turned 18. This means that if your child was 10 years old when they were injured in an accident, they have until their 21st birthday to make a claim for compensation.
How much compensation will my child be entitled to?
If the Defendant is found to be at fault, medical evidence will be needed to confirm the extent of your child’s injuries in order to decide how much compensation should be paid. This medical evidence will usually include your child’s GP notes and records, hospital notes and records and a report from a medical expert.
From this medical evidence, your solicitor will be able to ascertain the value of your child’s claim. The amount of compensation is calculated in two parts:-
- General damages – this is compensation for any physcial and/or psychological injury caused to your child as a result of their accident.
- Special damages – this is compensation for any other loss such as damage to property (for example, glasses, clothing, bicycle etc) or out of pocket expenses.
What happens when an offer of settlement is made?
If an offer of settlement is made in your child’s case, as his or her Next Friend you will have to decide, with the advice of the solicitor, whether to accept the offer or not.
Unlike cases involving adults, in a child’s case if you decide to accept the settlement offer, this then has to be approved by a Judge. You and your child will both be required to attend Court with your solicitor for this approval and answer any straightforward questions the Judge may ask about the case and your child’s injury.
If the Judge is satisfied that the settlement reflects a good outcome for your child they will approve the settlement figure. If the Judge is not satisfied that the damages agreed are sufficient, they will not approve the settlement figure and instead will direct that the matter is negotiated further between the parties.
What if settlement cannot be agreed?
If settlement cannot be agreed, then Court proceedings will have to be issued. Settlement of the case may still be discussed once Court proceedings have been issued but if settlement cannot be reached, ultimately there will be a Court hearing where the Judge will decide the case.
As the Next friend, you may be required to give evidence at the hearing about the facts of the accident, the injuries sustained, and the effect that these have had on your child.
What happens to any compensation money received?
Any compensation monies paid will be placed into a special Court bank account and will be held there on trust for your child until they reach 18 years of age. This means that your child will not have access to their compensation until then. Any monies held by the Court will gather interest which will also be paid to your child when they turn 18.
How will I pay my child’s legal costs?
Currently in Northern Ireland, children under the age of 18 years are automatically entitled to Legal Aid assistance in relation to civil claims involving injury, regardless of their parent’s income.
So, if your child has been injured as a result of a car accident, a dog bite, a slip, trip or fall, or a failure to be treated properly in hospital or any other situation where you feel a third party was at fault, there is nothing to lose in seeking legal assistance in order to ascertain whether your child would be entitled to compensation for any pain or suffering they may have suffered as a result of an accident.