If an accident that involves children happens, personal injury claims for children might arise. One should bear in mind that these accidents get different treatment than those involving adults. When these accidents happen, parents worry about the safety of their children a lot more than they do about potential legal proceedings. However, once the claim is filed, it is treated differently than the claims for injuries that an adult had sustained due to an accident.
A child under 18 can’t issue any legal acts in their own right, and they can only be represented by a parent or a third party that acts as their “next friend”. So, in such cases, another party needs to take the necessary actions to make a claim. To clarify, in the eyes of the law, a ‘minor’ is a person that is under the age of full legal responsibility, or the age of 18, to be exact. However, the minor can get representation from an adult ‘next friend’ for the purpose of their personal claim proceedings. In most cases, the next friend is either a parent or a guardian of the minor.
The District Court needs to give a permission to the “next friend” so that they can issue a claim for the child. They also have to accept every financial liability for issuing a claim in Ireland in case the act gets lost at some point in the future. The court also needs to approve any settlement for the given claim before they accept payments from “the next friend”. This kind of procedure is standard for any child under 18. As soon as they are 18 (and older), they are subject to regular adult procedures.
If a child was injured in an accident that was caused by the fact that someone was negligent, the best thing to do will be to contact a lawyer that specialises in child injuries beforehand, in order to get advice on how to proceed and make a successful personal injury claim.
Frequent Child Personal Injury Claims
There are a lot of ways a child can get injured and a lot of other details that might affect the way the personal injury claim has to be handled. These are the most common types of claims and what one should do before contacting a lawyer.
1. Claiming for Injuries Caused by Toys
One of the very common ways a child can get hurt is through playing with unsafe or defective toys. A lot of toys can cause choking and other types of harm to the child. The very first thing anyone should do is seek medical help for the child. Once the safety of the child is guaranteed, the parent/guardian of the child should note the cause of the injury. It is advisable to write down any details regarding the toy and the potential defects of the said toy. Locating the receipt of the toy is also beneficial. The receipt has the details of the location where the toy was purchased, and it serves as a proof of the purchase as such. At that time, it is a good idea to contact a solicitor to discuss the potential for a child injury claim.
2. School Accidents
If a child suffers an injury while it is at the school, day-care or crèche, the first thing to do after the child receives the necessary medical attention is to report the accident to relevant school staff. If there is a doubt that the staff member was negligent, it is advisable to collect several pieces of information and evidence. One should obtain:
- Photographic proof of the injury the child had sustained
- Name and other identifying information of staff members that were on duty at the time of the accident
- Names of people that were witnesses to the accident
- CCTV footage of the accident (if available) and photographs of the scene of the accident
- Obtain and keep any and all receipts that show medical and otherwise related expenses that the family of the child had to bear
Obtaining all of those as evidence can greatly assist in strengthening the personal injury claim.
3. Playground Accidents
Public amenities such as playgrounds and other locations are common locations where injuries tend to happen. There are multiple ways for children to injure themselves at a playground.
- Poor maintenance of security measures — In the case that the owner of the location does not properly maintain the grounds and keep the appropriate safety level for the users of the space, those failings can be the cause of an injury.
- Poor maintenance of the play equipment — Any damage on a piece of playing equipment can lead to serious injuries.
- Actions of employees — Certain actions or a lack of certain actions of employees can cause injuries
- Unhygienic processes — Certain establishments offer food to children. However, if the process of preparing that food wasn’t hygienic enough, it can cause several health issues.
4. Birth Injuries
Mismanagement or negligence during the management of pregnancy can cause several birth injuries. One of the most common birth injuries is cerebral palsy. But negligent management can also lead to:
- Injuries to brain tissue
- Prolonged labour injuries
- Hip, shoulder, and spinal cord injuries
5. Public Place Accidents
Accidents can happen in public places due to numerous different causes. However, the most common claims are in relation to the following:
- Slip and fall injuries that were caused by poor maintenance of walkways, staircases, and footpaths
- Slipping on a wet floor that wasn’t announced by a warning sign
- Getting hurt by falling objects
Making a Personal Injury Claim for a Child
Meaning of “Next Friend”
In the context of the law, every person who is under the age of 18 is a minor. As such, they are unable to make a legal claim for themselves. For that reason, an adult is required to step in and make the personal injury claim on behalf of a child that was involved in an accident. The adult that does so is the next friend. In most cases, the next friend is the parent or the guardian of the child. It is also not uncommon for other family members to be the ones to step in and make a claim.
Seek Medical Assistance for the Child
One thing that bears repeating is that the first priority should always be getting medical attention for the child. Some injuries might seem to be minor, and the child could feel fine. But even then, there could be something to look into. Even minor injuries can cause bigger health issues if left without medical attention. The medical practitioner will be able to alleviate any worries about the safety of the child.
Furthermore, the medical practitioner is the one to create a record of the injuries. Once the child’s injuries are taken care of, the records that the medical practitioner creates represent useful evidence in the injury claim.
Contacting a Solicitor
It is always advisable to contact a solicitor before proceeding with a personal injury claim. Once one does so, the lawyer in question will ask them to record several important facts. They are as follows:
- The exact time of the accident
- If the accident took place outdoors, the weather conditions can play an important part
- Any circumstances that might have caused the injury
- Relevant details regarding the witnesses including contact information
- Photos of the scene of the accident and any other related conditions
- The report that the next friend filed with the relevant authorities or other relevant persons.
The Injuries Board
Obtaining medical reports from the hospital or the doctor that provided assistance for the child is an important step. Once the next friend acquires the medical report, they have to complete an Injuries Board Form A. The next friend should then, with the assistance of a lawyer, send the form with the medical report to the Injuries Board. It is also important to note that they will have to pay the fee of 45 euros. The only types of injuries that are not assessed by the Injuries Board are cases that include medical negligence.
Upon reviewing the medical report, the Injuries Board will come up with a suggestion regarding the compensation amount that the liable party should pay in the form of compensation. The ones making the claim have the ability to accept or decline the compensation that the Injuries Board suggests. There are two paths from there:
* If the parents or the guardians of the child accept the suggestion given by the Injuries Board, the lawyer that is handling the claim can apply to the Courts and ask for payment of the settlement amount. Any injury claims have to come before the court in order for a ruling to be made. The sitting judge should review all medical reports and the suggestion of the Injuries Board to decide if the suggestion is appropriate.
* The parents or the guardians of the child can also decline the Injury Board’s suggestion. Also, the sitting judge may not accept the suggestion either. In those cases, the court proceedings will start. The case, as such, can still be settled outside of the court if the sides agree. Alternatively, the court will give a ruling that includes whether or not the child will receive compensation, and how much money, if any, the liable party will have to pay.
Claim Settlement Payment
Another important difference between claims involving adults and children comes in the form of the way claim settlement payments work. Once the court approves the settlement, the child can only receive the money once they reach the age of 18. At that point, the child in question can make an application to the Courts to receive the money.
The amount of compensation a plaintiff can get from an injury claim depends on the damages they suffered. In personal injury claims, those damages depend on the severity of the injury and the effect the injuries have on the further life of the child. There are two types of damages — general and special damages.
General damages are non-financial damages. Those damages are the pain and suffering that come as a result of the injury.
Special damages refer to the expenses that come due to the injury.
Also, compensation itself can vary drastically from one case to another. In general, children heal much faster than average adults, so the compensation is valid for a much shorter time period. However, a permanent or persistent damage will never go away, and it would be present for as long as the child is alive. In case a particular injury makes the child unable to work in the future, they have a right to an award for special damages. So even though the child lost their functional abilities, they would get an income as a compensation.
Statute of Limitations
Personal injury claims have time limitations. In the case of any accidents that involve children, that time limit is two years. However, the time only starts counting once the child turns 18. Of course, the next friend has the ability to make a claim as soon as practicable after the accident.
However, even if the statute of limitations allows waiting for the child to turn 18, it is not recommendable. Namely, if a case is too old, it can be really difficult to get compensation. The court might even dismiss the case if the judge deems that too much time had passed for the defendant to defend themselves against the claim.
As a general rule, child personal injuries should be pursued at an early point so that the lawyer can quickly get the necessary evidence. This rule also applies when the solicitor is gathering witness statements while their memories of an injury/accident are still fresh.
For that reason, it is advisable to contact a lawyer as soon as practicable. A capable solicitor can manage the case and make a successful claim for compensation.
*In contentious business a solicitor may not calculate fees or other charges as a percentage or proportion of any award or settlement.