When a child has been injured in an accident a claim for personal injury can certainly be made, however the way in which the claim is run does differ to that of a claim for an adult.
In the eyes of the Courts a minor is anyone under the age of 18 years and the Court oversee the claims process and any settlement reached on behalf of the child, this is to ensure the claim is run in the best interests of the minor.
In addition, we are unable to take formal instructions from the minor and an appointed party, which is normally the parent or guardian of the child to assist in the day to day running of the case and to provide instructions, the person is formally known as a Litigation Friend.
As is the norm in a claim for personal injury, medical evidence is obtained to fully document all the injuries unfortunately sustained; this includes all physical and psychological injuries suffered. If treatment to assist in the recovery is recommended, the treatment must be completed, either; privately or via the National Health Service.
Only at the time the minor has fully recovered from all physical and psychological injuries can the case proceed further and consideration to settle the case is made, formal instructions from the Litigation Friend to confirm full recovery has been reached is necessary.
We are required to obtain independent advice of the valuation of the personal injuries, either from; a Senior Solicitor or Barrister, which we rely upon when negotiating settlement of the case, however, this valuation is not disclosed to the Defendant as this is ‘Privileged Information’, but is disclosable to the Courts.
At the time a settlement is reached in line with the valuation of the case provided by the Senior Solicitor or Barrister, the case must be reviewed by the Court, in an Infant Approval Hearing. This is an informal hearing where, a Judge will consider; the evidence obtained, the valuation of the case and the settlement reached of the child’s behalf.
It is normal practice for the minor and the Litigation Friend to attend the hearing along with a representative from the instructed firm of Solicitors or a Barrister to aid proceedings, in order that the Judge may clarify points of the case and in effect ‘sign off’ on the agreement reached between the parties.
If the Court does not approve the settlement reached for the child the Court will order either; further medical evidence to be obtained or formal statements to be completed, the costs of which will not be payable by the Defendant and will have to be covered by the instructed firm of Solicitors. The Court will not approve the settlement if it is thought by the Court or inferred by the child or Litigation Friend that full recovery of the injuries has not been reached or the Court believe the monetary figure agreed is insufficient.
This, will of course delay the final settlement of the case, therefore it is very important for the Litigation Friend to provide clear and detailed instructions on the recovery of the child.
However, if the Judge approves the settlement reached on behalf of the minor, the normal course of action is the awarded monies are paid into the Court Funds Office and held until the minor reaches the age 18 years.
There is an alternative which the Courts can consider if a formal application is made, where the money may be transferred into a high interest account in the name of the child, payment will not be made to an alternative party, for example; the Litigation Friend.
At the time the child reaches the age of 18 years they can apply to the Court Funds Office for the total settlement monies awarded and any accrued interest.