Guide to pursuing a child accident claim
There is a certain category of people that are unable to bring a claim in the court without having representation. This group of people are known as persons under a disability and include children (i.e. those under the age of 16) and other protected parties (i.e. those of an unsound mind).
If a child is injured in an accident and they wish, or somebody acting on their behalf wishes, to bring a claim for compensation the child must be represented by a ‘Litigation Friend’, i.e. somebody of sound mind and over the age of 16 who can conduct the legal proceedings for them. A Litigation Friend is usually somebody with a close relationship to the child. i.e. a parent or guardian or other family member or close friend.
Usually in personal injury cases a Claimant has three years from the date of the accident in which to make a claim. If they have not settled their claim or issued court proceedings within this time their claim will become statute barred – i.e. they will be prevented by law from bringing a claim. However, in the case of accidents involving children the rules are slightly different. The three year time period does not start running until the child reaches maturity, i.e. on their 16th birthday. This means they have until their 19th birthday in which to make a claim for compensation for their injuries.
There are two choices available to a child – or parents/guardian of an injured child - wishing to make a claim for personal injury compensation. The child may either bring the claim as soon as possible after the accident has occurred under the representation of a Litigation Friend or, alternatively, the parents or guardian of the injured child may decide to wait until the child reaches the age of 16 so that they can make their own mind up about whether to make a claim for their injuries. It is generally thought that making a claim as soon as possible after an accident is the best cause of action as the evidence is still fresh and any scarring etc is still visible.
If the personal injury claim is settled before the child reaches the age of 16 the case will need to be put before a Judge at an Infant Settlement Hearing so that the judge can consider, and hopefully approve, the settlement. The hearing is informal and the child will appear with their Litigation Friend and may be asked some questions about how their injuries are progressing and whether they have made a full recovery. Although the majority of the compensation will be placed in the court fund until the child reaches the age of 16 it will be possible to request that a proportion of the money is released to the Litigation Friend immediately to invest in, for example, something of educational benefit to the child, such as a computer.
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