Child injury compensation claims are rarely one of a parent´s priorities when their child has been injured in an accident. Often it is long after a child has received treatment for their injuries before a parent considers whether their son or daughter is eligible for compensation, and this is usually the time that a parent turns to a solicitor to provide legal advice.
Inasmuch as the process for claiming child injury compensation is similar to that as when an adult is injured, there are certain aspects of a childrens injury claim for compensation that a parent would be unaware of unless their child had the misfortune to have been injured previously due to somebody else´s carelessness.
This article aims to shed a little light on some of the unique procedures you may encounter when claiming child injury compensation but it is no substitute for seeking professional legal advice. In the same way as no two children are the same, no two child injury compensation claims are the same, and the consequences of an injury to a child can differ significantly depending on the child´s age, prior state of health and gender.
Qualifying for Child Injury Compensation
In order to be eligible for child injury compensation, your son or daughter must have sustained an injury due to the negligence of somebody who owed them a duty of care. Children have accidents all the time, but when their accident could have been prevented had greater care been taken by somebody who had a responsibility for the child´s health and safety, you should be able to make a childrens injury claim for compensation on your child´s behalf against the person or persons who demonstrated a lack of care.
This means that if your child has sustained an injury at school because they were not being supervised, were injured in a traffic accident because a car driver was not paying full care and attention or hurt in a playground accident because the playground equipment had not been maintained to a safe standard, there is somebody accountable for your child´s accident against whom it is possible to make child injury compensation claims.
It is also a necessary qualification when claiming child injury compensation that your child received professional medical attention and that their injuries were recorded in their medical history. There will be insufficient evidence of an injury if your son or daughter only received first aid at the site of their accident or had their wounds dressed when they returned home. If you believe that your child has been injured in an accident which entitles them to claim childrens injury compensation, it is vital that they undergo a professional medical examination at the first possible opportunity.
Making a Claim for Childrens Injury Compensation
If your son or daughter has been injured in an accident for which they were not totally to blame, and you believe that they are eligible for child injury compensation, they have to be represented by a parent or guardian acting as a “litigation friend”. This is because, by law, a child is considered a minor until the age of eighteen and not allowed to instruct a solicitor or initiate child injury compensation claims.
The “litigation friend” cannot be somebody who has a conflict of interest – for example, a father who was responsible for his son´s injuries by careless driving – and must be prepared to accept the financial liabilities of a childrens injury claim for compensation should it ultimately prove to be unsuccessful.
Once the child´s representation has been organised, a solicitor would send a “Letter of Claim” to the person(s) you consider to have been negligent and responsible for your child´s injuries. The “negligent party” – or more frequently their insurance company – has twenty-one days in which to acknowledge the Letter of Claim and then a further ninety days to inform your solicitor whether or not they accept liability and are prepared to negotiate a settlement of child injury compensation.
Supporting Child Injury Compensation Claims
Your solicitor is more likely to get a positive response from the Letter of Claim if he or she has been able to support the claim for child injury compensation with evidence of alleged negligence. There are many ways it is possible to support child injury compensation claims, from the testimonies of witnesses who saw your child´s accident to CCTV surveillance footage confirming the allegations made against the negligent party.
Your solicitor will guide you through all the relevant actions you can take in support of your child´s claim for childrens injury compensation and – as a general rule – these would include any official reports that have been made subsequent to an accident occurring, photographic or video evidence taken at the scene of an accident and – in child accident compensation claims concerning product liability – the faulty product which caused your child´s injury.
No mention is made of how much compensation for a childs injury is being claimed when the initial “Letter of Claim” is sent – indeed it may be possible that all the consequences of your child´s injury are yet to manifest – and, as it is usually the negligent party´s insurance company who settles child injury compensation claims, you should be alert to any unsolicited offers of child injury compensation made to you directly by the insurance company.
If Liability for a Child´s Injury is Denied
If the negligent party denies his or her liability for your child´s injury, you will have to consider whether it is worth your while to pursue your claim for childrens injury compensation through the courts. Your solicitor will provide you with details of the costs and procedures that will be involved – and the Statutes which may limit how much time you have to decide on your next course of action.
Generally you can pursue a claim for childrens injury compensation at any time while the child remains a minor, but there are circumstances when the Statue of Limitations may be superseded by other legislation. It may also be the case that your child is considered to have contributed to the cause of the accident in which they were injured – in which case any settlement of child injury compensation may be reduced to reflect his or her lack of care and make claiming child injury compensation through the courts unjustifiable.
Many people unknowingly have legal fees insurance attached to home contents or car insurance policies – or due to membership of certain motoring organisations and credit cards – and you may wish to consider these along with any offer of “No Win, No Fee” representation offered to you by your solicitor before deciding if you wish to pursue compensation for your childs injury through the courts.
“No Win No Fee” Child Injury Compensation Claims
Depending on the circumstances of your child´s injury, your solicitor may be willing to offer you legal representation on a conditional fee agreement from your first consultation. “No Win, No Fee” child injury compensation claims mean that you will not owe your solicitor for their legal fees should your child´s claim for childrens injury compensation be unsuccessful.
As solicitors recover their legal fees from the negligent party´s insurers when your claim is successful, your child should retain 100 percent of their compensation when their claim is resolved. There are however conditions attached to “No Win, No Fee” child injury compensation claims which you should be aware of before entering into a conditional fee agreement with a solicitor.
Even though your solicitor will not charge you for his or her legal fees should your childrens injury claim for compensation be unsuccessful, you may still be liable for defence costs and any expenses your solicitor has incurred in the preparation of your case. Furthermore, a solicitor´s offer of “No Win, No Fee” representation is no guarantee of successfully claiming child injury compensation.
How Much Compensation for a Childs Injury?
How much compensation for a childs injury your claim is likely to be settled for will depend on the nature and extent of the injury your child has sustained, whether there will be any permanent scarring – either physical or emotional – and whether the injury that your child has suffered at such a tender age will affect their health as they grow older.
If your child is unable to participate in hobbies or leisure activities that would form part of their regular schedule, or suffer any confidence issues because of the nature of the accident they were injured in, these factors too can be integrated into child injury compensation claims. Compensation amounts for each element of a childrens injury claim for compensation is calculated against the Judicial College Guidelines for the Assessment of General Damages.
As a parent or guardian, you will be able to recover any justifiable expenses you have incurred which are directly attributable to your son´s or daughter´s injuries. This means that if you have taken time off from work to care for your child, purchased medical equipment to aid your child´s recovery or paid for specialist physiotherapy or psychotherapy services; you are entitled to include these costs when claiming child injury compensation.
Issues with Child Injury Compensation Claims
There are a number of issues which can affect the procedures for making child injury compensation claims. These include, but are not limited to:-
If your child has contributed to the cause of his or her accident, or you have inadvertently contributed to the severity of your child´s injury by not seeking immediate medical attention, how much compensation for a childs injury your claim is resolved for could be reduced by a percentage – the percentage depending on the extent of the contributory negligence.
When Parents are Injured in the Same Accident
It is sometimes the case that the child and his or her parents are injured in the same accident. Injuries to a parent can delay the resolution of child injury compensation claims – especially when the parent is the negligent party against whom a childrens injury claim for compensation would be made. In such cases, an alternative “litigation friend” would have to be appointed.
Unsolicited Offers of Child Injury Compensation
When the initial Letter of Claim is sent to the party responsible for your child´s injury, you may be approached directly by the negligent party´s insurers with an unsolicited offer of child injury compensation. These offers should always be referred to a solicitor to assess whether they reflect a fair and accurate assessment of compensation for your childs injury.
Court Approval for Child Injury Compensation
Finally, once a settlement of child injury compensation is agreed, it has to be approved by a court before the claim can be completely resolved. Once approval is forthcoming, the compensation settlement is paid into court funds – where it remains until your son or daughter turns eighteen. Funds can be released on application to the court for medical and educational requirements.
Speak with a Child Injury Compensation Solicitor
There is a significant difference between initiating a claim for childrens injury compensation and seeking legal advice. A child injury compensation solicitor should ideally be contacted at the earliest practical opportunity once it is suspected that your child has sustained an injury due to the carelessness of somebody who owed them a duty of care. The solicitor will be able to determine whether or not your child has a viable childrens injury claim for compensation and guide you through the procedures for claiming child injury compensation which are specific to your child´s circumstances.