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Claim for Child Injury

When a child is injured it is unlikely that making a claim for child injury compensation is an initial priority for a parent, and it can often be a long time after the event that compensation is sought. This can mean that the time between an injury being sustained and treated, and when a compensation claim for an injury to a child is made, can often be several years.

The process for claiming injury compensation on behalf of a child is similar to that for an adult; although there are significant differences in some areas – many of which parents would be unaware of if they have not made a claim for an injury to their child on a previous occasion.

Even still, no two compensation claims for children are identical and will differ depending on a number of factors including the nature of the injury sustained, the child´s age, gender, and prior state of health. Seeking legal advice from a solicitor will better inform you of where you stand in regard to qualifying to claim compensation for a child´s injury and how much compensation for an injury to a child the claim may be settled for.

Qualifying to Claim Compensation for a Child´s Injury

A claim for child injury compensation is made against someone who has failed in their duty of care to your child. Claims are usually made for preventable accidents which breach health and safety regulations and show that someone has demonstrated an inability to care for your child; however a compensation claim for an injury to a child could also be made against:-

  • A parent who has caused an accident by their negligent driving,
  • The manufacturer of a faulty toy,
  • A hospital technician who fails to correctly interpret medical test results or
  • A local council or other business establishment who has failed in their duty of care to provide a safe environment in a place of public access

While it is true that children have accidents all the time, and most injuries are easily brushed off, if your child has sustained an injury due to the carelessness of somebody – or some body – who had a responsibility for the child´s physical and emotional well-being, you will be qualified to claim compensation for a child´s injury.

If you decide to pursue a claim for an injury to a child it is also imperative that your child underwent a professional medical examination at the first practical opportunity after sustaining an injury. Although it is the natural reaction of a parent to take their child to a hospital or their doctor, for a claim for child injury compensation to have the greatest likelihood of success, your child´s injuries have to be treated and documented as soon as possible after an injury has been sustained. The administration of first aid at the site of the injury and when the child returns home is insufficient proof of injury to support a claim for compensation for an injury to a child.

Claiming Compensation for a Child´s Injury

As a child is not allowed to submit a claim for child injury compensation by themselves, their parent/guardian may take the case on their behalf acting as a ‘litigation friend’. This rule applies until the child has reached 18 years of age, at which point they are legally able to pursue their own compensation claim for an injury to a child.

Once a decision to make a compensation claim for an injury to a child has been made, the next step is to inform the party whom you consider to have been negligent. This is done by sending a ‘Letter of Claim’ through your solicitor. Once the letter has been sent, the defendant will have 21 days in which to acknowledge that they have received the letter and a further 90 days to advise your solicitor whether or not they will accept liability for the injury.

It is worth noting that a ‘litigation friend’ cannot be a person with a conflict of interests and must be willing to accept all financial liability should the case not succeed.

Supporting a Compensation Claim for an Injury to a Child

Backing up your claim of negligence with evidence can lead to a quick and positive response from the negligent party and it is important to be able to achieve this before you decide to submit a ’Letter of Claim’. Medical reports, testimony from witnesses who were present at the time and CCTV footage or photography are among the types of evidence that can lead to a satisfactory outcome.

Your solicitor will guide you through what is needed to present the best possible case through the ‘Letter of Claim’. All official reports — medical and accident, for example — should be included, as well as evidence of the incident itself. No mention of how much compensation is being sought should be included in the letter: it is usually the case that the negligent party’s insurance company will be responsible for negotiating the final settlement, while in some cases it is possible that the full extent of the injury suffered may not have manifested itself by the time the letter is sent.

What Happens if the Negligent Party Denies Liability?

If the party you believe to be at fault for your child’s injuries denies responsibility, you will have to decide whether or not compensation for an injury to a child is worth pursuing in court. If you decide to proceed, your solicitor will be able to provide you with details of the costs and procedures that will be involved, as well as being able to advise you on the likelihood of a successful outcome.

The law governing how much time you have to issue court proceedings, the Statute of Limitations — which places a three-year limit on adult claims in most instances — says that a parent has until their child is 18 years of age to submit a claim for child injury compensation on their behalf. This can be misleading however, and in claims for compensation for a child´s injury can be shortened — particularly if the claim conflicts with another piece of legislation.

It could also be the case that the child has contributed in some way to their own injury — for example, if a child is judged to have been partly at fault by knowingly putting themselves in danger. In this case taking the claim to court may be unjustifiable, and while you might still be entitled to a claim compensation for an injury to a child, any compensation settlement would likely be reduced to reflect the child’s part in his/her injury.

No Win No Fee Compensation for an Injury to a Child

If a solicitor believes you have a strong claim for child injury compensation they may offer to represent you and your child on a No Win No Fee basis. A No Win No Fee arrangement means that your solicitor will not charge you should the case be unsuccessful and, if the case is won, it will mean that your child will be able to keep 100 percent of the award as the defendant will be responsible for your legal fees.

The arrangement does not automatically mean that you will not incur any expenses from the case if you are unsuccessful however — you may still be liable to pay the defendant’s legal fees as well as any charges your solicitor incurred while preparing and presenting your case – but your solicitor should explain to you how you can protect yourself from potential financial liabilities in this scenario.

It is worth noting that when a solicitor agrees to represent you on a No Win No Fee basis it is not a guarantee of a successful claim.

If a solicitor does not believe that the claim qualifies for No Win No Fee representation there are other low cost avenues to explore. Many householders or car owners are unaware that they have legal fee insurance attached to their home or car policies which can go some way toward covering the cost of legal action.

How Much Compensation for a Child Injury Claim?

The settlement of a compensation claim for an injury to a child depends on a number of factors; with the nature of the injury, whether there is any permanent scarring, and whether the injury will affect the child later in life as he/she grows among the most significant considerations. Emotional damage is also an important factor.

The amount of compensation to be awarded will be assessed taking previous settlements contained in the Judicial Studies Board Guidelines for General Damages in Personal Injury Claims into account. Other factors that can influence the amount of compensation paid include whether the child’s confidence has suffered — perhaps because of scarring — and whether they are no longer able – even temporarily – to participate in hobbies and recreational activities.

In addition compensating the child for the injuries they sustained, settlements of compensation for a child´s injury also enables parents to be reimbursed for any expenses they have incurred which are directly attributable to the child´s injury or earnings that may have been lost while caring for the child during their recovery.

Possible Issues with a Claim for Child Injury Compensation

A number of regularly occurring issues have been known to complicate the process for claiming compensation for a child´s injury. Among the most common are:—

Contributory Negligence

As mentioned above, the amount of compensation that is likely to be paid out could be affected if your child is partly responsible for their own injury. Contributory negligence also applies if you, the adult, have been negligent by not having the injury treated by a medical professional immediately after the incident.

What if Parents Are Injured Alongside their Child?

A claim for child injury compensation can be delayed if the child’s parents are injured in the same incident — a traffic collision, for example. These cases can become particularly complicated when one of the parents is the person whom the action is being taken against. This scenario could arise if say, an entire family were travelling in a car and the driver, a family member, was negligent behind the wheel and responsible for causing an injury to his/her passengers.

Unsolicited Offers of Compensation

It is not uncommon for an insurance company – acting on behalf of the party you believe to be negligent – to approach you with an unsolicited offer of compensation for an injury to a child not long after your solicitor has dispatched the ‘Letter of Claim’. Insurance companies use this tactic in the hope of resolving the case as quickly and as cheaply as possible. At first glance it may be hard to tell whether the offer is fair and reasonable, and whether it will cover all of the costs you have or will have to face as a result of your child’s accident. It is highly advisable that you contact a solicitor before deciding if the offer is worth accepting.

Final Court Approval for Compensation

The settlement of a claim for child injury compensation must first be approved by a court before the claim can be concluded. The award will not be paid to you or your child immediately, but paid into court until your child reaches the age of eighteen. Some of the compensation settlement may be released if funds are needed for further medical treatment or for educational purposes.

Speak with a Solicitor about your Child´s Claim

The information above aims to serve as a guide for parents considering a compensation claim for an injury to a child, but is no substitute for seeking professional legal advice. A solicitor with expertise in child injury compensation claims should be contacted immediately if you suspect your child may have been harmed by the negligence of someone with a duty of care toward them. Contacting a solicitor will allow you to determine whether you have a case for a claim, to receive advice on how to proceed with the claim with reference to your particular circumstances and to establish whether compensation for a child´s injury can be pursued under a No Win No Fee arrangement.