CHILDREN AND INJURY CLAIMS
A child, who has had an accident, cannot make a claim on their own behalf until the age of 18 years, but an adult can make a claim on that child’s behalf.
This adult is known as “litigation friend” or “next friend” and deals with the everyday handling of the case. Normally a “litigation friend” will be the child’s natural parent. If it is not a natural parent – proof will be required to show that individual is legally entitled to act on the child’s behalf.
A child cannot instruct a solicitor to make an accident claim – no contract signed by child is binding. Once again a “next friend” is necessary and will bound by the contract agreed personally, but on the child’s behalf.
HOW LONG HAS A CHILD TO MAKE A CLAIM
Generally, a child has until their 20th birthday to start a child accident claim and an adult normally has only two years from the date of an accident to start a claim.
The law in the Republic of Ireland has been designed to ensure that the most vulnerable members of society (e.g. children) have every opportunity to claim the compensation they are entitled to.
So if you have an accident on your 15th birthday. You have 5 years to start a claim.
HOW CAN A CHILD’S INJURY CLAIM BE SETTLED
Even though the “next friend” and their personal injury solicitor are acting in the interests of a child neither has the power to finalise a child’s accident compensation claim without the involvement of the court in what is known as an “infant approval case” or a “minor ruling”.
At this hearing, the judge will consider all the evidence in the claim and the offer of compensation made.
The judge will need to see a barrister’s written opinion reviewing all the evidence gathered by the solicitor and confirming that the amount of compensation offered is sufficient.
A “barrister” is a lawyer who specialises in advocacy and legal research.
The judge will look very carefully at the medical evidence and any future complications. The judge will want to see that it is fully known what the future holds – if there is any doubt then the judge will more than likely prefer to wait for an updating medical report than to conclude a child accident claim too early.
Only when the judge is happy will the judge allow the offer of compensation to be accepted and the claim to conclude.
The judge will look very carefully at the medical report, speak to the “next friend”, and sometimes the child, to ensure that any future injury symptoms are known. If in doubt the judge will normally request to see an updating medical report setting out clearly any likely future problems before allowing the claim to conclude.
TO WHOM IS THE CHILDS COMPENSATION PAID
To protect your child from spending the compensation recklessly the compensation paid by the party at fault is invested in the court funds office until your child reaches 18 years of age.
No one can touch the money until your child is 18 years old, but a small amount can be paid out at the discretion of the judge if The judge feels it necessary; for example money for the child’s education, health needs etc.
WHEN WILL THE CHILD GET THE MONEY
After reaching 18years, the child can apply for the invested monies with the interest earned be paid to them.Many parents feel it’s far too young and they don’t tell their child about the court money until the child is in their 20’s.
– a legal advice note from Kilkenny Solicitors Holland Condon