Parents rarely consider child injury compensation claims immediately after their child has been involved in an accident. Understandably, a parent’s first thought is of their child’s health. It can often be long after treatment has been received that parents consider pursuing compensation on behalf of a child, and at this time they usually take the opportunity to speak with a personal injury claims solicitor.
Although pursuing a claim for an injury for a child is much the same as for an adult, there are a number of differences, many of which a parent would be unaware of unless they were in the unfortunate position of having being eligible to pursue a claim for compensation on behalf of a child in the past.
Even parents who have pursued compensation on behalf of a child before now may not be aware of all of the differences however. As no two pursuits to claim compensation on behalf of a child are the same — even when the children were involved in the same accident or suffered the same injuries — it is imperative that a parent speaks with a personal injury claims solicitor at the first possible opportunity after an accident. Although the aim of this article is to provide as much information on child injury claims as possible, it should not be used as a substitute for professional legal advice.
Qualification to Claim Compensation on Behalf of a Child
In order for a parent to be eligible to claim compensation on behalf of a child, their child must have sustained an injury due to the negligent behaviour of an adult who owed them a duty of care. Children have accidents all the time, and although it is not possible to claim for every bump and bruise that they sustain, it may be possible to claim for compensation against an adult who failed in their duty of care to them.
In order to be able to pursue compensation for a child injury against a negligent adult, you may need to provide evidence that your child received proper medical attention immediately after an accident. Summoning an ambulance should always be a responsible adult’s first action after a child has sustained an injury — receiving first aid at the scene or treating wounds at home will not be regarded as sufficient action. If you believe that your child has sustained an injury which enables them to qualify to for compensation but have not had them receive treatment, you should make an appointment to see your family GP immediately.
Making a Claim for an Injury
As a child cannot legally pursue a claim for an injury or instruct a solicitor, it is not possible for them to pursue a claim for child injury compensation on their own behalf. If your son or daughter has been injured in an accident for which they were not totally to blame, compensation for a child injury can be pursued on their behalf by an adult — usually by a parent or guardian — known as a ‘Litigation Friend’.
In order to qualify to pursue a claim for compensation on behalf of a child, a ‘Litigation Friend’ must not have a conflict of interest in the claim — e.g. be the person who caused the injuries. They must also be willing to bear any financial responsibility for the claim if it is unsuccessful.
Once a solicitor has been spoken with and has evaluated the claim, they will send a “Letter of Claim” to the party who you believe was responsible for your child’s injuries. The “Letter of Claim”, which will contain all of the evidence which you have gathered to support your claim for compensation for a child injury, acts as notification to the person, against whom you are claiming compensation, that you are pursuing an action against them.
Once the letter has been dispatched, the negligent party has 21 days in which to acknowledge receipt, and another 90 days in which to decide whether or not to admit liability. If the negligent party decides to accept liability, your solicitor will open negotiations with the aim of securing the maximum possible amount of child injury compensation. If not, your solicitor will issue court proceedings.
Supporting Compensation for a Child Injury
Your solicitor is more likely to receive a favourable response to your “Letter of Claim” if it contains evidence of negligence by the party being pursued for compensation. Your solicitor will be able to advise you as to what sort of evidence is most likely to prompt a positive response from the negligent party — CCTV footage, statements from witnesses and photos of the injury and the scene are among the common types of evidence included by claimants in letters. If the incident happened on premises or in a vehicle an accident report may also be available and should be included. If a claim for compensation for a child injury is based on an injury caused by a faulty product, pictures of the faulty product should also be posted.
No mention of how much child injury compensation is being sought is included in the letter — it is possible that the full extent of your child’s injuries is unknown, as sometimes symptoms of injuries and illnesses can take a significant period of time to manifest themselves. You should also note that it is possible that you may receive an unsolicited offer of compensation from an insurance company representing the party against who you are claiming. If this happens, you should inform your solicitor immediately. Under no circumstances should unsolicited offers of compensation be accepted with being examined by a solicitor.
If Liability for a Claim for Compensation is Denied
If a negligent party denies that they are responsible for your child’s injury, you will have to speak with your solicitor and make a decision as to whether it is worth continuing to pursue child injury compensation. If this happens, your solicitor will provide you with information on the cost of pursuing a claim through the courts, and of the statutes which may apply to your claim for compensation for a child injury.
Generally, a claim for an injury on behalf of a child can be pursued at any time while a child remains under the age of 18; however there are some instances in which time limits imposed under the Statute of Limitations may be superseded by other legislation. It may also be the case that your child in some way contributed to their own accident — in which case the value of any child injury compensation awarded would be reduced to reflect their own negligence. A child’s own negligence may also mean that pursuing a claim for compensation would be unjustifiable — particularly if the accident is considered to be more than 50 percent their fault.
It may be the case that you have legal fees insurance attached to your home contents or car insurance policies, or through your credit card policy or membership of certain organisations (many claimants are unaware that they are covered until their solicitor advises them to check). You may also be able to claim compensation on behalf of a child by utilising a “No Win, No Fee” agreement offered by some solicitors.
“No Win, No Fee” Child Injury Compensation Claims
Depending on the circumstances in which your child’s injury occurred, your solicitor may be willing to take on your claim for an injury on a “No Win, No Fee” basis. A “No Win, No Fee” agreement is one in which your solicitor waives their legal fees if your claim for compensation is not successful.
If you accept a “No Win, No Fee” offer of representation, it may mean that your child can keep 100 percent of any award provided to him. This is because in a situation where a claimant’s attempt to claim compensation on behalf of a child is successful, the fees of the claimant are often paid by the negligent party.
While the prospect of having a claim for an injury undertaken on a “No Win, No Fee” basis may appear attractive, there are some conditions which you should be aware of before accepting an offer of representation. Even though you will not be responsible for the costs incurred by your solicitor if you claim compensation on behalf of a child and it goes unsuccessful, you may be liable to pay the defendant’s costs and any extra expenses your solicitor incurred as a result of taking your claim.
You should note that although an offer of “No Win, No Fee” representation means that your solicitor believes your claim has a high probability of success, it is not a guarantee that you will receive a child injury compensation settlement.
How Much Compensation for a Child Injury Could I Receive?
How much child injury compensation is award for claims depends on a number of different factors. The nature and extent of a child’s injury, whether or not there will be any permanent scarring, and whether or not your child is young enough that their injury will affect their health as they grow are all factors which are taken into account by a solicitor when they are calculating the value of a claim for compensation.
Your child may also be able to receive compensation for any emotional injuries they may have suffered as a result of your accident, although these will first have to be quantified by a psychologist. If your child suffered a decline in confidence as a result of any scarring left by their injury, or if their injury prevented them from participating in activities which would form part of their normal routine, they may be able to be compensated for it. These elements of a compensation package are known as general damages.
Justifiable expenses which you incurred as a result of caring for your child while they were injured may also be redeemed. Through the special damages portion of a child injury compensation settlement, you may be able to recover the cost of any medical expenses, such as medical devices or medicines, or psychotherapy or physiotherapy treatments which you incurred as a result of your child’s injury.
Issues with Claiming Compensation for a Child Injury
There are a few issues which could influence your claim for compensation. Here are some examples:-
Contributory Negligence and Child Injury Compensation
If your child contributed to their own injury through their own negligence, or you contributed to their injury through not ensuring that they received medical treatment at the earliest possible opportunity, how much child injury compensation you are likely to receive may be downsized to reflect your own contribution to your injury. How much compensation is forfeited depends on the extent of you or your child’s negligence.
When Parents and Children are Injured in the Same Accident
Parents and children are sometimes injured in the same accident — road traffic accidents for example. This can often lead to delays in claims for compensation for a child injury, especially in claims where the person being claimed against is a parent. In such claims, an alternative “Litigation Friend” would have to be appointed due to the conflict of interest.
Unsolicited Offers of Compensation for a Child Injury Claim
When a “Letter of Claim” is sent to the negligent party, you should prepare yourself for the possibility of receiving an unsolicited offer of compensation. This offer has more than likely been made by the negligent party’s insurance company, and should be referred to your solicitor. It is imperative that you do not accept an unsolicited offer of compensation without first speaking with a solicitor about it.
The Necessity for Court Approval
Once a child injury compensation settlement has been agreed upon, the award must first be approved by a court before the claim can be considered completely resolved. After compensation for a child injury has been approved, the settlement is paid into court funds, where it will remain until the child reaches 18 years age — exceptions can be made for medical or educational expenses.
Speak with a Child Injury Compensation Solicitor
A child injury compensation solicitor should be spoken with at the first possible opportunity after an accident, or after it becomes apparent that your child has suffered an injury due to the negligence of an adult who owed them a duty of care. Speaking with a solicitor will enable you to ascertain whether it is possible for you to pursue compensation for a child injury, and if so, how much compensation your claim may yield.