Where a claim is made by or on behalf of a child, in many cases and in all cases where court proceedings have been issued, no settlement or acceptance of money is valid without the approval of the Court. In the eyes of the Court, a child is considered to be anyone under the age 18.
Therefore, before an offer of settlement can be finally accepted for a child, a Damages Approval Hearing must often take place. These Hearings are an important safeguard for both the child and those involved in the conduct of the child’s matter. The functions are:
- Firstly, to ensure that the Claimant’s matter is not under settled; and
- Secondly, to give the Court an opportunity to ensure the Claimant’s money is invested appropriately until the Claimant turns 18.
Once the Claimant has fully recovered, the Claimant’s Legal Representative will usually obtain advice from a Barrister regarding the value of the claim. The Legal Representative will then consider the advice, along with guidelines and case law, to value the claim.
Once the correct valuation has been identified, settlement negotiations can begin. The process is largely similar whether a settlement amount has been agreed or not.
The process begins with an application to the Court. Enclosed with the application will be copies of the medical report, evidence of any financial losses, the advice from the Barrister and a Witness Statement from a parent/guardian confirming the Claimant has fully recovered.
The Legal Representative will try and arrange for the hearing to take place on a date best suited for the Claimant/ parent or guardian but, unfortunately, the dates are often restricted due to the Court’s timetable. The Hearing should always take place in the Claimant’s local Court.
On the day of the hearing, the Claimant and parent/guardian will be met by their Legal Representative.
The actual hearing is likely to take place in the Judge’s chambers, rather than the Court room itself.
The Judge will ask the parent/guardian, and where appropriate, the Claimant any questions he/she may have. The Judge’s main concern will be to satisfy himself/herself that the Claimant has fully recovered. The Judge will never make an award while the Claimant has on-going symptoms, unless the medical report provides a permanent prognosis.
It is important to note that the Judge will never reduce an award previously agreed by the parties but he may, if he considers it appropriate, refuse to approve it unless the defendants increase it.
Usually, the award will then be placed into Court funds until the child reaches 18.
The Claimant’s Legal Representative may ask for the monies to be paid into an alternative account but the Judge is unlikely to do so unless he/she is satisfied that the monies will be paid into an account that is solely in the child’s name and denies them access until they are 18.
It is rare the Court will allow the Claimant to spend the money until they are 18, but the Claimant’s Legal Representative can request access to some of the money. This request is unlikely to be granted unless the money is going to be used for educational purposes. Where money is requested, estimates of cost or receipts will be needed.
Not all cases require an infant approval hearing . In cases which have not yet been issued it is optional . Whether to obtain an infant approval will depend upon the size of the settlement (in small cases you may not want the bother) and on whether you wish to have the flexibility to invest the money yourself . The rates in the court funds office are presently very low and you may be able to find much better rates elsewhere
It is however always important to remember that the money is always the child`s alone and cannot be used for other purposes eg a family holiday even if the child would partly benefit . The sole exception is where you are being reimbursed for monies paid out on the child`s behalf eg for the cost of travel expenses or physio .
We would advise that parents or guardians who are considering making a claim for their child’s injury always seek advice from us , not only in relation to the claim, but also in relation to their obligations to the child.
Accidents involving children are not uncommon. We represent many claimants under the age of 18 who have been injured as a passenger in a road traffic accident, as a result of faulty equipment or in many instances, those injured because of poorly maintained indoor/outdoor play areas.
Rest assured, if you choose Smith Jones to represent you and your child in an injury claim, we will be with you for every step of what may seem a complex and daunting process.
If you would like more information or wish to make a claim, you can call our Freephone helpline number on 0800 195 95 90 or click here to request a call back.