Persons under 18 years of age are described in law as minors or infants. A minor may not make a claim or issue proceedings in his or her own name but is instead represented by a ‘next friend’, usually a parent or guardian. If the child reaches the age of 18 before the claim is settled, then the proceedings can be amended to reflect the position and he or she may continue the claim in his or her own name at that stage.
It should be noted that your child’s attendance at the Emergency Department or with your G.P. following an accident is recorded and the medical records may later be taken up and used in evidence to support any potential injury claim. You should therefore assist your child in ensuring that the accident circumstances, injuries and symptoms (including symptoms of stress and anxiety) are explained fully to the medical attendant examining your child and are accurately recorded.
The Injuries Board
As with adult personal injury claims, it is necessary to first lodge an application on behalf of a minor with the Injuries Board, with the exception of cases involving medical negligence. The Injuries Board will then look to process the claim, and if liability is not disputed, make an assessment setting out a suggested compensation figure which is open for either party to accept or reject. It is important to note however that if the Assessment is accepted by both parties the award must first be approved by the Court before any compensation can be paid out. This is a safeguard put in place to protect the interests of the minor claimant.
Payment of Compensation
Once the claim has been finalised and the award or settlement has been approved by the Court, any compensation received on behalf of the child must be lodged with the Courts Service where the sum is placed on deposit until the minor plaintiff reaches adulthood. At that stage an application can be made to the Accountant’s Office of the Courts Service for payment out of the monies lodged on behalf of the minor plaintiff.
Although the Statute of Limitations in personal injury cases stands at 2 years from the date of the accident or date of knowledge, the law affords minor plaintiffs extra time by allowing the ‘date of knowledge’ of the injury to coincide with the minor’s eighteenth birthday. Once the minor plaintiff turns 18, the clock then starts to run.
Once you have addressed the immediate concern of the health and welfare of your child following an accident, it is always advisable to seek legal advice as soon as practicable. We have considerable experience in dealing with child accidents and can assist and guide you step by step from the initial meeting through to the payment of monies out of court at the end of the legal process.
If you wish to discuss a potential claim or would like advice on any matter, please Contact Us for a consultation.