Whilst most people will know that if they suffer an injury as a result of a non-fault accident that they have the right to claim compensation, people often forget that children who are injured are also entitled to make a claim.
A claim made on behalf of a child follows broadly similar process to a claim presented by an adult but any settlement reached on a child claim must be approved by a District Judge in the County Court at an Infant Approval Hearing.
We’ve taken the time to set out below all that you need to know about child compensation claims.
What is a Litigation Friend?
At the outset of the case, the solicitor acting for the child will need to speak to the child’s parents or guardian to decide who will act as the child’s Litigation Friend. The Litigation Friend will be responsible for dealing with all correspondence from the child’s solicitor and they will also need to attend a medical appointment with the child for the purpose of assessing their injuries.
How is a child’s compensation award decided?
Before your child’s solicitor and the third-party’s solicitor can start negotiating a settlement, the solicitor must collate all the relevant evidence including medical reports and any evidence of any financial losses that the child or their parent has suffered as a result of the accident.
Financial losses are collectively known as special damages. The most common financial losses claimed in child compensation claims are items such as travel expenses to and from medical appointments, the cost of parking at hospitals or paying for pain relief or prescriptions. In some cases where serious injuries have occurred it is possible to recover lost earnings for a parent or guardian who has taken unpaid leave in order to care for their injured child.
Once all of this information has been collated, it is sent to a Barrister who will prepare a document known as Advice on Quantum. The written advice will detail the value of the child’s claim and should breakdown what is due for their injuries as well as what financial losses are recoverable.
Once the Barrister’s written advice is received the Solicitor should then negotiate with the Defendant. That process can be relatively short or, in cases where the child’s injuries are more complex, can sometimes take a few months.
Once the settlement had been negotiated then, provided the settlement achieved is as a good as or better than the valuation given by the Barrister, the Solicitor will apply to the Court to approve the settlement. The solicitor will send to the Court all of the relevant medical evidence and evidence of other financial losses and the Court will then fix a date for the Infant Approval Hearing.
The Infant Approval Hearing
The Infant Approval Hearing may sound daunting but in our experience it is simply a rubber-stamping exercise. The hearing will usually be around ten minutes and takes place at the closest available civil court to the child’s home address. The judge will not be dressed in a wig and gown as the court tries to make both the child and the Litigation Friend feel at ease.
The child’s solicitor will start by introducing the Litigation Friend and the injured child before briefly setting out the details of the case. They will then ask the Judge to make an order approving the settlement that has been agreed.
The Court’s main priority is to ensure that the child has made a full recovery or has reached as full as a recovery as he or she is likely to make from their injuries. The Judge may want to ask the child or their Litigation Friend a few questions so they can satisfy themselves that the child has made the fullest possible recovery.
What happens next?
Assuming the Judge is satisfied with the settlement figure agreed between the parties they will make an order that the child’s compensation be paid into either the Court Funds Office or a Child ISA/Trust Fund. It is possible to ask the Court for a “one-off” immediate payment however the Litigation Friend must be prepared to explain to the Judge why that payment is required. In our experience, judges are usually reluctant to approve such payments unless the it is for the immediate educational or health benefit of the child.
At the end of the Infant Approval Hearing the Judge will order the Defendant to pay the compensation into the Court Funds Office or to the child’s solicitors for payment into an approved Trust Fund or ISA within 14 - 21 days.
What is the Court Funds Office?
The Court Funds Office provides a banking and investment service for the Courts throughout England and Wales. It accounts for the money paid into and out of Court and also looks after any investments made with that money.
When the child reaches the age of 18, the invested compensation award, in addition to any interest accrued, is paid out to the injured person. It is therefore very important that the child’s parents or guardians keep the Court Funds Office updated if they move house or if their contact details change because when the child reaches 18, the Court Funds Office needs to be able to contact them to release the invested compensation.
Nelson Myatt Solicitors LLP