Who is Considered to be a Minor?
A person under the age of 18 is considered a ‘minor’ in the eyes of the law. A minor cannot engage a solicitor or make an accident claim by themselves, instead, another adult person will have to represent them in the personal injury claim*. The other person who represents the minor in a claim is called their ‘next friend’. A next friend representing a minor is usually a parent or guardian of the child involved in the accident.
If your child has been involved in an accident as a result of somebody else’s negligence and you are considering making a child injury claim, the best thing you can do is contact a child injury solicitor first to discuss the case and how best to proceed.
Common Types of Child Personal Injury Claims
Children’s Toys Injury*
Injuries caused by defective or unsafe toys is a common child injury claim. In these cases, the defective toy causes choking and/or physical harm to the child. In this case, seeking medical attention is priority number one. Following a parent/guardian should note the details of the injury and the details of the defect in the toy. Hold on to the package and any instructions that came with the toy. Retain the receipt for the purchase of toy (which will also keep note of the details of the shop where the toy was purchased). Once you have gathered this information contact a solicitor to discuss the next steps.
Accident at School or Crèche or Day-care*
In cases where a child suffers an injury while in the case of a school, crèche or day-care once the child has had medical attention, the next step should be to report the accident to the staff. If the injury was caused by the neglect of a staff member other information that you may need will be:
- Photographs of the child’s injury
- Names of staff members on duty at the time and any witnesses to the accident
- Photograph the place where the accident took place
- Obtain CCTV footage if any
- Keep any receipts for medical costs or any other expenses arising from the accident
Accidents in playgrounds or any other public amenities for children can occur in a number of different ways:
- The owner of the location did not uphold their duty of care to the maintenance of the grounds and did not provide the correct level of safety for the customer and children.
- An injury to a child occurred due to the actions/inactions of an employee.
- The play equipment was poorly maintained leading to an accident
- The food offered to children at the establishment was not treated with the correct standard of hygiene.
Birth Injury Claims*
- Brain injuries
- Injuries caused due to prolonged labour
- Hip/Shoulder injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
Child accident in a public place*
Accidents in a public place can be caused by numerous factors:
- Slips, trips or falls due to poorly maintained footpaths, walkways, staircases
- Falling on a wet floor in a public place such as a supermarket
- Falling objects due to poor quality fixtures
In all cases speaking with a solicitor should be step number one following medical attention for the child.
Making a Claim*
What does the term next friend mean?
In the eyes of the law, a child or minor is the term given to a person who is under 18 years of age. A minor is unable legally to make a claim on their own behalf. Therefore in accident claims involving children, an adult can step in and make the personal injury claim on their behalf. The adult that steps in to make the compensation claim is known as the ‘Next Friend’. A ‘`Next Friend’ is usually the child’s parent or guardian or a family member.
Before you consider legal proceedings and making a claim*, your first priority should be to seek medical attention for the child involved. In minor accidents whereby the child involved seems to feel fine. However, what you don’t realise is that the minor injury you have suffered could develop into a bigger health issue for the child in later years. Assessing the health after an accident is a critical first step. It is important that when you seek medical attention for your child that the medical practitioner records the injuries. Any symptoms that arose from the accident will be used in evidence in your child injury claim at a later stage.
Once the child has had a medical assessment and you have contacted a child injury solicitor* there are a number of steps you will follow:
1. Record and report the details of the accident
It is important that you have a clear account of how the accident happened when making a child injury claim. Important facts to record are:
- Time and Date of the accident
- Weather conditions at the time (if the accident happened outdoors)
- Circumstances that caused the accident
- Request contact details for any witnesses to the accident
- Take photos of the accident scene and any conditions that led to the accident
- Report the accident to the relevant persons or authorities. The person you report the accident to will depend on where and how the accident happened. When reported you may need to complete an accident form. You should make sure that you request a copy of any accident record forms you complete and file it with your personal records of the accident.
2. The Injuries Board
A Next Friend, with the help of a solicitor, can initiate a child accident claim by obtaining a medical report from the doctor/hospital that treated the child following the personal injury. Once obtained, an Injuries Board Form A must be completed and sent together with the medical report and appropriate fee of €45 to the Injuries Board.
The Injuries Board will then suggest an amount of compensation to be paid by the party at fault to the child. Speak with your solicitor and they can help you decide on whether to accept or decline the Injuries Board suggested compensation.
- In cases where the parent or guardian of the child accepts the Injuries Board suggestion, the next step is for your solicitor to apply to the Courts to have the settlement amount paid. All child injury claims must come before the court for a ruling. This is carried out before it is settled and it is down to the sitting judge to review the medical report and the injuries. The judge ultimately decides whether the assessment and compensation amount is appropriate to the injury.
- In cases where the Injuries Board suggested settlement amount is not accepted by the parent/guardian or the Judge, then the matter will proceed further and court proceeding will be issued. The case may be settled outside of court, or reach court and a ruling will be given by the court as to how much, if any, the child will receive.
Please note that the only exceptions to the above are medical negligence cases*. Medical negligence involving children are treated differently to other types of personal injury* and are not assessed by the Injuries Board.
3. Payment of Child Injury Claim Settlement*
Where a child injury claim* is successful and a settlement amount has been agreed and approved by the Court, it is important to note that the amount can only be paid to the child when the child reaches the age of 18. Once the child reaches 18 years old, they must make an application to the Courts for the amount to be paid to them.
The compensation awarded for a personal injury claim* involving a child is known damages. The amount of compensation awarded can vary depending on the severity of the injury to the child and its effects on the child’s quality of life thereafter.
General damages refer to non-financial damages such as pain and suffering and/or physical and emotional damage as a result of the personal injury.
Special damages refer to out of pocket expenses incurred as a result the personal injury.
Personal Injury Claim Time Limit for Children – Statute of Limitations
Following an accident involving children*, it is important to remember that there is a certain time frame in place within which you can bring a claim. This time frame is called the statute of limitations and for children, the statute of limitations 2-year time limit does not start until they turn 18. However, a parent or guardian can bring a claim forward as soon as the accident happens.
It is advisable for a parent or guardian to speak with a solicitor as soon as possible after the accident. Leaving it too late may lead to difficulties down the line. For example, if a person is injured as a toddler and the claim is brought forward shortly after their 18th birthday, there is a possibility that the court would dismiss the claim as given how much time has passed it may be too difficult for a defendant to defend the claim made against them.