Personal injuries involving children
If you’ve been involved in an accident which has left you with injuries it can have a devastating effect upon your life going forward. This impact will be multiplied many times over if another party was responsible for the accident in question, and it will be even worse if it’s your child, rather than yourself, who was injured in this way.
If the incident in question was purely accidental then there’s nothing for it but to get on with the rest of your life hoping that your luck changes, but if you’re sure that a third party behaved in a manner which was somehow negligent then you’ve every right to think about making a claim for compensation on behalf of your child.
It’s not about trying to earn a quick pay-off, as some sections of the media might have you believe. It’s about two things – the first of these is the simple fairness inherent in your child receiving an amount of money designed to recognise the scale and depth of their pain, suffering and anguish.
On top of this, compensation will be calculated to take into amount any impact the injuries suffered might continue to have into the future. This can range from simple expenses to cover the cost of things such as travel or prescriptions all the way up to an amount designed to make up for a loss in earning power in the future or, in the most extreme cases, the money which has to be spent on providing care for the rest of the victim’s life.
Claiming compensation for an injured child
Clearly, then, making a claim for compensation is not a step to be taken lightly, and this is particularly the case if you are claiming on behalf of your child. In the vast majority of compensation claims for personal injury there is a strict time limit which is generally three years from the date upon which the incident occurs, or the effects of the negligence become apparent, after which a claim cannot be pursued. Most personal injury claims are handled by expert no win no fee lawyers who have the experience of dealing with these types of cases.
When a child is injured, of course, this rule does not apply. Since a person under the age of eighteen cannot pursue a compensation claim, the law says that the three year limit only comes into effect once they turn eighteen years of age, but it also states that a parent or guardian can launch a claim on the child’s behalf, acting as what is known as a ‘litigation friend’.
It covers various circumstances in which someone might be unable to pursue their own claim, and in the case of a child it invariably means a close relative or guardian fighting for compensation on their behalf. Many such cases, for example, involve children who were injured in childbirth and need compensation to cover the cost of care for the rest of their lives. In cases such as this, the sooner the claim starts the better, since the need for compensation and financial support will be urgent and because it also means that the circumstances of the accident will still be fresh in your mind.
Who is responsible if your child has been injured at school?
The various different models under which schools within the UK are now run can make deciding who exactly is the negligent party following an injury to your child somewhat confusing. Under health and safety legislation, the employer would be regarded as having ultimate responsibility for the safety of the environment within a school for the pupils, the teachers and anyone else working there or visiting. Being responsible, they would be the party liable in any compensation claim, and the Health and Safety Executive breaks down the educational system into the following groupings:
- The Local Authority – Responsible for community schools, community special schools, voluntary controlled schools, maintained nursery schools, pupil referral units.
- The Governing Body – Responsible for foundation schools, foundation special schools, voluntary aided schools.
- The Proprietor – Responsible for independent schools.
- The Head Teacher and Governors – Responsible for independent academies.
The Children Act of 1989
The Children Act of 1989 is a key piece of legislation in terms of determining whether a third party has treated your child in a manner which might be regarded as negligent, this negligence then leading to a personal injury. The third party in question could be a teacher, nursery nurse, medical practitioner or anyone else deemed to have accepted a duty of care towards your child. Under the auspices of the Act, an individual carer should adopt the principle known as ‘in loco parentis’ which means, in simple terms, that they should behave in the manner of a ‘reasonable parent’. Of course, defining ‘reasonable’ behaviour may seem to be a tricky concept, but it is usually fairly clear, at least to a parent, when such behaviour has been absent.
If your child is injured in a public place such as a shop, train station or museum, then a combination of legislation including the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Occupiers Liability Act 1957 set out in detail the lengths to which the people responsible for these spaces should have gone in order to ensure that they represented a safe environment for your child. In all cases, the measures taken are required to be ‘reasonable’ and if a lapse in this standard has led to your child being injured, then you have every right to launch a claim.
The principles of a claim involving a child are exactly the same as they are for those involving an adult, with the only difference being that a child is regarded, in the eyes of the law, as ‘lacking capacity’ to represent themselves (see the Mental Capacity Act 2005). This means that a parent, guardian or other responsible adult must act on their behalf, appointing a personal injury lawyer and gathering the information needed to build the strongest possible case.
Making a successful claim
In all cases, a successful claim on behalf of your child will involve establishing that the other party acted in a negligent manner, failing in their duty of care, and that this failure led to your child suffering injury or illness. An experienced personal injury lawyer will help to put together the strongest possible case, maximising the chances of your child receiving the compensation which will enable them to live the rest of their life as fully as possible.