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Compensation for Child Injuries

When a child has been injured in an accident, it is rare for compensation for child injuries to be a primary concern for the parents or guardians. Generally it is quite some time after the incident before parents or guardians think about compensation and it is usually then they ask a solicitor for legal advice.

The process for claiming child injury compensation is similar to the adult procedure, with the exception of a few key differences that parents or guardians will be unaware of unless they have gone through the compensation process for a child’s injury before.

As with all compensation claims, please bear in mind that no two cases are the same, as the effects of an injury can impact a child differently depending on their age, gender and prior state of health; and while this guide should give a clearer view of the options available to you, it is no substitute for seeking professional legal advice.

Does Your Child Qualify for Child Injury Compensation?

Your child must have sustained an injury due to the negligence of somebody who owed them a duty of care in order to be eligible for compensation for child injuries. Claiming compensation in a child injury case should be possible once you can demonstrate that the accident in which the child sustained injuries was caused by a lack of care on behalf of the person(s) who was responsible for the child’s health and safety at the time.

For example, if your child was injured in a traffic accident because the driver of the vehicle in question was not paying full care and attention, was injured at school because they were not being adequately supervised or hurt in a playground accident because the playground equipment was not being maintained to a safe standard, it may be possible to make a claim for compensation for your child’s injuries as somebody’s carelessness was responsible for the accident occurring.

For your child to qualify for child injury compensation you must also ensure that he or she has received professional medical care and their injuries were recorded in their medical history. If your child only received first aid at the scene of the accident, or had their wounds dressed once they arrived home, there is a high risk that there will be insufficient evidence of an injury to the child to back up your claim for compensation. Please ensure your child undergoes a professional medical examination as soon as possible if you believe they have been injured in accident where a third party with responsibility for the child at the time may have been negligent.

How to Begin the Process for Claiming for Child Injury Compensation

In accordance with UK law, a child is considered a minor until they reach the age of eighteen and are forbidden from instructing a solicitor or initiating a claim for compensation for child injuries. If you believe your child may be eligible to receive compensation for their injuries, and decide to pursue a claim, your child is required to be represented by a parent or guardian acting on their behalf as a ‘litigation friend’.

It is imperative that the ‘litigation friend’ is not somebody who has a conflict of interest, for example a father whose careless driving resulted in injuries to his son – and, if the children’s injury claim proves unsuccessful, the ‘litigation friend’ must be prepared to accept the financial liabilities attached with this verdict.

Once a solicitor has been appointed and the child’s representation organised, the solicitor will send a ‘Letter of Claim’ to the person(s) considered to have been negligent and responsible for your child’s injuries. Generally the ‘negligent party ‘is represented by their insurance company, but this is not always the case. The ‘negligent party’ must acknowledge the Letter of Claim within twenty-one days and then inform your solicitor within the following 90 days of their intentions regarding the claim, whether or not they will accept liability and are prepared to negotiate a settlement of child injury compensation.

Supporting a Compensation Claim for Child Injury

If you are able to provide evidence of alleged negligence, your solicitor will be more likely to obtain a positive response from the Letter of Claim. Evidence you could use to demonstrate negligence includes CCTV surveillance footage confirming the allegations made against the negligent party or the testimonies of witnesses who saw the accident.

There are many paths you could pursue in support of your child’s claim for children’s injury compensation and your solicitor will direct you towards the ones that would be most relevant for your claim. Other evidence that could be used include official reports made subsequent to the accident occurring, photographic or video evidence taken at the scene of an accident and — in the case of a claim for compensation for a child’s injuries where a product is liable — the faulty product can be used as evidence.

When the initial ‘Letter of Claim’ is sent, no mention is made of the amount of compensation being sought for the injury to the child. The full impact of the child’s injury may not yet be known, so you should bear this in mind if the negligent party – usually represented by their insurance company — directly contacts you to make an unsolicited offer of compensation for child injuries.

If there is a Denial of Liability for the Child’s injury

If the negligent party denies responsibility in your compensation for child injuries claim, you will have to decide whether or not you should pursue the case through the courts. You should consult your solicitor for the best course of action to take here, as they will be able to advise on any costs of the procedures involved in continuing the case and the Statutes that may limit the amount of time available for you to decide on your next course of action.

Generally parents claiming compensation in a child injury case can make a claim at any time while the child is a minor up until their eighteenth birthday. If a claim for child injury compensation is not made within this time, the child – now an adult – has three years in which to pursue compensation for child injuries against the negligent party. Please note that there are circumstances in which this “Statute of Limitations” may be overridden by conflicting legislation.

Furthermore, if your child is deemed to have contributed in some way to the cause of the accident in which they were injured, any compensation awarded for the child’s injury could be reduced to reflect his or her lack of regard for their own welfare. An adjustment like this to the final compensation figure awarded could make claiming compensation for child injuries through the courts unjustifiable.

Of course there are options available to you if you do decide to pursue the claim through the courts. Some people may have legal fees insurance attached to their home or car insurance policies — or due to membership of certain motoring organisations and credit cards – and you may be unaware you even have such a policy in place, so it is worth checking it out with your insurance provider. It may also be worth considering ‘No Win, No Fee’ representation if your solicitor offers it to you, which is explained below in greater detail.

“No Win No Fee” Representation in Compensation for Child Injury Claims

‘No Win, No Fee’ representation is an arrangement whereby you will not owe your solicitor for their legal fees should your child’s claim for childrens injury compensation prove unsuccessful. Generally your solicitor will consider all the circumstances surrounding your child’s injury before offering you legal representation on a conditional fee agreement.

Should your child injury compensation claim prove to be successful, your child should retain 100 per cent of their compensation as your solicitor will recover their legal fees from the negligent party’s insurers. However you should also be aware that there are certain conditions attached to the ‘No Win, No Fee’ arrangement.

If your child’s claim for injury compensation proves to be unsuccessful, you will not be charged by your solicitor for their legal fees, but you may be liable for costs of the defence and any expenses incurred by your solicitor in the preparation of your case. You should also bear in mind that an offer of ‘No Win, No Fee’ representation is not a guarantee that your case will be successful.

How much Compensation could my Child be Entitled to?

The amount of compensation awarded for child injuries depends on the nature and extent of the injury sustained by your child, whether there will be any physical or emotional scarring and whether the injury will hinder you child’s health in any way as they grow older.

The confidence of the child suffering as a result of the accident, or an inability to take part in hobbies or leisure activities that formed part of their regular schedule, could also be incorporated when claiming compensation in a child injury case. The Judicial Studies Board Guidelines for General Damages in Personal Injury Claims will be used to calculate the amount of compensation that should be awarded for each element of a child’s injury compensation claim.

It will also be possible to recover any justifiable expenses incurred by the parent or guardian that can be attributed directly to the injuries suffered by the child. For example if you have taken unpaid time off work to provide care for your child, bought medical equipment to aid the recovery of the child or paid for specialist physiotherapy or psychotherapy services, you are permitted to include these costs when claiming compensation in a child injury case.

Issues you may encounter when Claiming Compensation for Child injuries

Several issues can impact procedures when claiming compensation in a child injury case. These issues include, but are not limited to:-

Contributory Negligence in a Compensation for Child Injuries Claim

The amount of compensation your child is entitled to will be reduced by a percentage if it is found that your child contributed to the cause of his or her accident through their own negligence or if you inadvertently contributed to the severity of your child’s injury by not seeking immediate medical attention. The percentage of the decrease depends on the extent of the contributory negligence.

When Parents are Injured in the Same Accident

Injuries to the child’s parents in the same accident can delay the resolution of the claim for compensation for child injury; this is notably the case when the parent is the negligent party against whom the child injury compensation claim is brought. In this instance an alternative ‘litigation friend’ must be appointed.

Receiving Unsolicited Offers of Child Injury Compensation

You may be approached directly by the negligent party or insurers acting on behalf of the negligent party with an unsolicited offer of compensation for child injury, after the initial Letter of Claim is sent to the party responsible. You should always refer these offers to a solicitor, allowing them to investigate if the offer is a fair and accurate assessment of compensation for your child’s injury.

Court Approval when Claiming Compensation in a Child Injury Case

A court must approve the settlement of compensation for child injuries before the claim can be completely resolved. When approval is granted, the compensation settlement is paid into court funds where it remains until the child reaches the age of eighteen and legally becomes an adult. However funds can be released early for medical and educational purposes if an application is made to the court.

Speak with a Compensation for Child Injury Solicitor

Ideally you should seek legal advice and contact a compensation for child injury solicitor as soon as realistically possible once it is suspected your child suffered an injury due to the negligence of the party deemed to be responsible for them at the time. The solicitor will be able to determine if claiming compensation in a child injury case is the correct option to take, and will guide you through the process for making a compensation claim which is most relevant to the circumstances surrounding your child’s injury.