April 23, 2022
Christopher Mason, with over thirty years’ experience in dealing with Personal Injury matters, explores some of the issues when children are involved.
It is every parent’s nightmare – a call from school or nursery to say that their child has had an accident or a policeman at the door with news of a road traffic incident. Children are uniquely vulnerable; still learning how to look after themselves and more often than not, reliant on adults to look out for them. And as parents know all too well, children can be very accident-prone.
For all our instincts to protect our children and keep them safe, accidents do happen– children can be injured at school, at nursery, on the road and even out shopping. Many accidents occur to children in surprising circumstances, often those which might not occur at all with adults, or where adults might suffer much less significant injuries; take for example, the heart-breaking case last summer of a five-year-old boy who died following a head injury when a mirror fell on him in a department store in Colchester. Children and traffic often do not mix well, although there is some good news at least from The Department for Transport in that overall, child casualties decreased by 5% between 2018 and 2019 to 13,574 casualties in 2019 which is the lowest year on record – but still a worry!.
No parent ever wants to have to pursue a personal injury or clinical negligence claim, but if faced with the situation of a child who has sustained injury due to someone else’s fault, then it is a comfort to know that help is close at hand to guide them through the claims process from start to finish and to ensure that their child is fully and properly compensated for the injuries and losses sustained – whether a minor injury with full recovery, or an injury that may have life-long consequences for the injured child.
A child who has been involved in an accident cannot make their own claim; any claimant under 18 years old needs a parent or other responsible person (known as a ‘litigation friend’) to make the claim on their behalf. It is also often the case that a child may succeed in a claim where an adult would not – there are many circumstances in which the law recognises that ensuring the safety of children requires a greater standard of care than with adults.
The Limitation Act 1980 stipulates that personal injury claims (in most cases) have to be started by adults within three years of the injury occurring. In cases involving children, the three year time limit does not start to run until the child’s 18th birthday – but it is always best to bring a claim as soon as possible; delay can make it more difficult to successfully bring a claim so advice should always be sought as soon as possible.
If your child is injured in an accident, you should consider carefully whether medical attention should be sought even if your child seems alright. Not all injuries are visible; not all have an immediate impact. Make sure that the incident is reported so that there is a formal and official record of what happened; if you were not present yourself, try to find out from any witnesses exactly what happened and get contact details if you can. If the accident has occurred in a public space, take photos if possible, especially where any defect or danger can be clearly seen – preservation of evidence can be vital to the success of any claim.
If the accident was due to someone else’s negligence and your child suffered an injury as a result, a claim can be made not only for the pain, suffering and loss of amenity caused by the injury, but for consequential financial losses as well – these can be anything from travel expenses, to treatment costs and losses incurred in providing extra care for your child. In serious cases, where life-altering injuries tragically occur, claims can be made for future needs such as treatment, care, property adaptations, aids and equipment, as well as loss of earnings based on the child’s potential future career. Where the claimant is a child with life-long needs due to injury, the sums for future losses can run to many thousands of pounds, and well into seven figures in serious cases.
Dealing with personal injury claims, especially those involving children, can be complicated, so consider taking advice as soon as possible. And remember – it does not need to be cost-prohibitive. Most lawyers like ourselves, will consider working on a ‘no win – no fee’ basis and our aim is always to ensure that a claim can be pursued with no risk for parent or child.