When an adult is injured due to negligence by one or more third parties, the process of making a personal injury claim is relatively straightforward. The individual has three years to lodge a compensation claim, starting on the date of the accident or when they were diagnosed with their injuries. However, when claiming personal injury compensation for children, the situation is a little more complex.
Lodging a claim for compensation
If your child has been injured due to negligence by one or more third parties, they have every right to pursue compensation. But, under 18 years of age, they would not be able to represent themselves in a court of law – or instruct others to act on their behalf. Consequently, the traditional three-year window of opportunity is no longer relevant in the usual sense.
Pursuing compensation on behalf of a child
It is possible to pursue compensation on behalf of a child even when they are still under 18. To do this, a “litigation friend” would be appointed to act on their behalf. While this would typically be a parent, it could also be another family member or close friend. Strictly speaking, the three-year window of opportunity to claim compensation as a child is no longer relevant. The child’s representative would act on their behalf and pursue compensation in the traditional manner.
Many people are not aware that there is no deadline when pursuing compensation for a child UNTIL they reach 18 years of age. Therefore, the child’s representative could lodge a personal injury claim any time up to their 18th birthday. Once they turn 18, they’ll have three years to claim where they can represent themselves or appoint a third party to look after their interests.
Pursuing compensation as an adult
One other option is to wait until the child in question reaches 18 years of age. At this point, they are legally recognised as able to make their own decisions. Under normal circumstances, they would appoint a personal injury claims solicitor to act on their behalf. However, in this situation, no matter what age the child was when they were injured, they have three years from their 18th birthday to lodge a claim. So, in theory, they have until their 21st birthday to pursue compensation for injuries received when they were a child. In reality the claim would need to be made well before the three year time limit is up to give plenty of time to build the case.
Acting in the child’s best interests
Whether a parent or alternative family member/friend, anyone acting on behalf of a child pursuing compensation is legally obliged to act in the child’s best interests. They need to put to one side their own opinions and ensure they have their focus on the child’s best interest. For example, they may be tempted to take the first offer to bring the proceedings to a swift close. Would this be the best course of action for the child? Might there be further scope for negotiation, even if this may take a while longer?
If the proposed third party neither has the time nor the inclination to pursue compensation as far as possible, it may be appropriate to appoint someone else.
Settlement of a child’s compensation claim
It is slightly different when pursuing compensation for those under 18 years of age compared to adults. First of all, a compensation claim would not be settled:-
- Before the child had made a full recovery
- Their injuries were recognised as permanent
This ensures that the full extent of the injuries can be recognised by the court and the relevant compensation settlement awarded. Secondly, any payment would need to be approved by the court at what is known as an “infant approval” hearing. This is yet another added layer of protection to ensure that a child victim’s best interests are represented at all times.
Where the representatives of a child personal injury victim secure compensation, there are two options for the courts to consider:-
Funds invested until the child turns 18
It is usual for compensation to be placed in an investment account until the child reaches 18. Upon their 18th birthday, they will have access to the initial payment and any interest accrued. Note, the funds are invested in a basic savings account as opposed to, for example, a stock market investment fund. This minimises the risk to the funds in question.
Funds paid out to litigation friend
Where the compensation is deemed to be a relatively small amount, the court may approve release to the child’s litigation friend. This will be on condition that the funds were invested into a junior ISA, or similar savings account. As above, the child would not be able to access these funds until they turned 18.
There is a general misconception that child personal injury compensation claims are broadly run in the same way as those for adults. However, as you can see from the above details, several differences ultimately ensure that a child’s best interests are always served. One of the main issues revolves around the approval of an out-of-court settlement. Traditionally, any out-of-court agreement would not need the approval of the court. However, when it comes to child compensation claims, the court will need to approve any compensation arrangements.
If the courts believed an agreement to be flawed, they can block settlement and force the parties to revisit the case for compensation.