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Injury Claims on Behalf of a Minor

The different legal status of children means that the process of making a personal injury compensation claim for an injury to a child can be different to that of an adult.

Injuries for which the school is liable

It is very common for children to have an accident at school, as they are susceptible to numerous risks. They are naturally curious and generally do not have a full understanding of the potential hazards. So the schools have a very large responsibility to keep your children safe and prevent any accidents. It is important to know the most common accidents your children face at school.

Common playground injuries

One of the most common accidents involves playground equipment. Although your schools want your children to have fun, they have to balance it out with safety. For example, your children may experience extreme joy on climbing structures referred to by those in the know as 'monkey bars', but it is so easy for them to have an accident so precautions have to be made such as having protected floors to cushion falls and restricting the height of the bars to make it more safe. If your school does not take the appropriate precautions and your child suffers an injury such as a broken bone, you may be entitled to compensation.

Another standard injury at school is a slip or trip. Children may not be the most careful with hazards such as holes or spillages making the floor slippery, so they have to be careful and act efficiently. Signs would normally suffice, however you can never be sure with children.

Schools should also be aware of risks on the playing fields. As fields are easily accessible to trespassers the schools must maintain its safety for when your children are playing sport. They should also make sure if your children own any sports equipment on their premises for example cricket bags, they must ensure they are sufficiently locked away to prevent them from being stolen.

Two common accidents that the schools are liable for but happen outside the premises are school buses and school outings. They must be supervised and kept safe and for the buses it is the drivers’ responsibility to make sure they are safe by driving carefully and making sure their seatbelts are fastened.    

Compensation for injuries on the playground

Your children are susceptible to accidents in the playground, be it from another child, a climbing frame or even the weather. Teachers have to keep the children's safety in mind, which will mean supervising the children as much as possible and looking out for possible accidents, which will also include keeping an eye on the weather.

Injuries in the playground

If your child is injured as a result of another child there are certain factors you have to keep in mind when making a claim. For example, it is important to know the age of the other child. This is because the younger the child and your child are the more likely you are to receive compensation for the injury. Also, the older the other child the more likely you will be compensated and if the act is seen as bullying you can even make a criminal injury claim. As the children are very naive to the dangers of the playground such as falling off climbing frames, it is important that there is maximum supervision from the teachers. If not, it is likely you can claim compensation. You should also keep in mind the surface of the playground and if it is suitable to impact your child’s fall. Supervision cannot prevent a child’s fall so they should take out the measures to cushion their fall. If your child has suffered an injury due to a hard surface under a climbing frame, for example, the school will be liable for compensation because they should provide a padded or bark surface at the least.

Hazardous weather

Another factor to take into account if your child gets injured in the playground is the weather. For example, if your child slips on wet leaves or ice the school would be to blame because they did not take the appropriate action in clearing the hazard. If the ice or leaves had been there for a while and they were in a location which was commonly used by the children and they slipped, breaking an arm, for example, you will have a strong claim for compensation.

How to make a claim if your child has been hurt when using a climbing frame

Climbing frames are a very popular attraction for children during playtime, which also means it is a common hazard to them. The dangers of climbing frames vary with different structures and heights. Your school has a large responsibility with your children's safety which requires constant supervision, especially as children of a young age are particularly oblivious to the physical dangers of the climbing frames. The younger they are the more care is needed and the stronger your claim will be following an accident.

Climbing frame injuries

Whilst playing on a climbing frame your child can easily suffer a broken bone due to a fall. The frames may be too high for the children, proving too much of a risk when they fall, or the surface below may be too hard and not sufficiently cushion their fall. In either of these circumstances the school will be deemed responsible for the injury. Sometimes supervision cannot help an accident but teachers should still give warnings to the dangers of the climbing frame.

School liability

In the case that your child is pushed off a frame due to another child it is still the school’s responsibility. Teachers should be supervising the area and make themselves aware of the risks. Developing a claim for compensation in this case may be difficult, but there are different ways you can go about it. You can make a claim against the school using a solicitor and evidence of the injury or you can take it up with the other child's parents first. If contacting the parents is difficult it is recommended you take the case up with the head of school. If you feel your child has been bullied you can even make a criminal injury compensation claim if the other child is over the age of 10.

You can claim if your child is wounded by another

If your child is injured by another child at school, you may be entitled to compensation. Even if it seems unlikely and you have attempted to contact people responsible to no avail, you should know it may still be possible to make a claim.

Firstly you need to make sure it was a deliberate act that caused the injury to your child. If your child says it was a deliberate act you should contact the school immediately or even contact the police if a lack of action is being taken. If this is the case it is important to know that a child is criminally responsible for their actions from the age of 10 so you may even wish to claim criminal injury compensation on your child's behalf.

School's responsibility

If you take the incident up with your school and they refuse to take responsibility, it is recommended you seek a child accident lawyer as schools should never deny responsibility for your child's safety. You will automatically be in the right when taking up this sort of claim up with your lawyer, as even if the school may not seem to be to blame as such an incident would be the fault of the other child, they should always accept responsibility for your child's safety at school.

If you do not wish to take the case up with your solicitor and instead try to contact the parents of the child responsible for your child's injury and do not have much luck doing so, it may be better to take it up with the head of your school and make it a more formal case.

Claiming for school sports injuries

Sporting injuries at school are very common, especially in contact sports such as rugby and football. These injuries can range from sprains on muscles and tendons to dislocations and broken bones. When determining whether you should make a claim against the school for compensation or not, you should firstly consider how exactly the injury happened. This is because if the injury occurred within the laws of the game nobody is really to blame. On the other hand, in rugby, if contact was made outside the laws of the game, such as a 'spear tackle' and your child suffered neck injuries or any injury for that matter, a claim for compensation should be made.

Teacher supervision

The teachers at the school in question will also be a determining factor when making a claim. Although with contact sports there will inevitably be knocks and injuries, the teachers still have to supervise, provide training and warn the children of the possible injuries. While the teacher is coaching and helping the children they still need to ensure their safety at all times.

You also have to consider how old your child was at the time of the injury. Younger children are more naive to the dangers of physical activities so the younger the children are, the more care the teachers should have in looking after them. If your child has suffered an injury at an early age the stronger your claim for compensation will be.

The teachers also have to make sure children are not susceptible to getting injured by larger and older children by maintaining games are fair and safe.Parental indemnity

A common question after an accident to your child is whether parental indemnity - accepting a sum of money on behalf of your child from the perpetrator of the accident - is an appropriate way to conclude their claim. We advise that a parental indemnity is not the proper way to conclude your child's claim. The most appropriate and best way of claiming your child's compensation is to take the case to court in front of an infant approval hearing or minor settlement hearing.

Advantages of an infant approval hearing

An advantage of this is that you will explain the case to the court and they will act in the best interests of your child instead of a simple form between you and the person who caused the accident. The judge will look over the medical evidence, listen to the barrister's advice to provide the correct amount of compensation and if there is evidence to show, your child should receive more compensation as the judge will require the guilty party to increase the offer.

Another advantage of an infant approval hearing has over parental indemnity is that the potential compensation will be invested by the court until the child is 18. This means the money may gain interest and is released when the child will have a better idea of how to use it.

You can also claim back the legal costs of the solicitor when taking the case to court. This will be added to the compensation and will be taken from the guilty party. The solicitor is an advantage in itself. The best evidence will be gathered in the form of expert reports and they can also get advice from a barrister which increases the chance of getting maximum compensation. The process will generally be quicker and expertly done.

Can you still claim if your child was trespassing?

If your child has an accident whilst trespassing you can still claim for compensation. The compensation will come from the occupier who owns the land your child suffered an injury on. It is generally the case that when a child trespasses they are attracted to something to make them want to trespass, for example a wooded area or something to climb on. This is known as an allurement. The occupier should your prevent the child from being attracted to the allurement by fencing up the area.

Responsibility of landowners

The occupier has the responsibility to make sure nobody is injured on their land. For example, say somebody owned a wooded area behind their garden with numerous trees, bushes and dead branches that backed onto a park and only had an old fence with large holes in as an attempt to prevent people from trespassing. Your young child enters through one of the large holes in the fence and whilst exploring the area a dead branch falls from a tree, landing on the child. Your child suffers an injury but even though they had a fence they may still be responsible because the hazardous area was not appropriately blocked off. They should make sure the fence has no holes and possible have signs warning people of the danger.

Compensation claims

So even if your child trespasses on somebody else's land and suffers an injury, you can still make a claim. If the occupier has an allurement they have to make sure children cannot enter the premises as they may not have the understanding of the dangers and enter anyway.

What is needed for a child injury claim

As a child:

  • You can make a claim at any time from the date of your accident until you are 21 years of age as opposed to an adult, who has only three years to make a claim from the date of the injury.
  • You cannot make a claim for compensation if you are a minor.
  • You are classified as a ‘minor’ if you are below the age of 18.
  • As a minor you need a 'litigation friend' to make a claim, which is generally a parent or guardian.
  • Somebody other than a parent or guardian will need proof to show they can act on your behalf.
  • If you have difficulty finding a litigation friend you may be given permission to make a claim within 3 years of the time you become 21.
  • Your litigation friend cannot be a solicitor.
  • You cannot give out instructions for your compensation claim.
  • As a minor you will need a litigation friend and preferably a personal injury lawyer to make a claim.
  • After the age of 18 you can make a claim yourself and hire your own solicitor.
  • After a successful claim the compensation you receive will be invested in the court funds office which nobody can touch.
  • You are not permitted to access the compensation until you are 18 years of age.

As a parent:

  • If your child suffers an injury and they are younger than 18, it is your responsibility to make the claim if you feel it is best for the child.
  • When making a claim on behalf of your child you are known as their ‘litigation friend’.
  • As their litigation friend you have to deal with all the everyday aspects of the claim.
  • It is up to you to hire your own personal injury lawyer and assist them with making the claim.
  • You should help gather evidence and explain the case to the solicitor.
  • You have to stand in front of an infant approval hearing in court to finalize the claim.
  • If the claim is successful you will talk with the judge to decide how you want to invest the compensation which is usually in the court funds office.

The stages of a child injury claim

It is important to know what age classifies somebody as a child, when they should make a claim, if they need someone to claim on their behalf and the time limit for claiming. The technical term for a child is a 'minor', which applies to those under the age of 18. Children cannot make their own claim until they are 18, so an adult must make the claim on their behalf. The adult is usually the parent and is known as the ‘litigation friend’ — they will deal with all the aspects of the case. In the case of somebody other than the parent dealing with the case, they will have to show proof they can act on the child's behalf.

As child accident claims are different, a claim must be made by the time the victim is 21 instead of within 3 years of the accident, as is the norm. UK laws give children more of a chance to make a claim and even if they cannot find a litigation friend they are allowed three years to make a claim by themselves after the age of 21.

When making a claim the child, the litigation friend and a personal injury lawyer will stand before a court or infant approval hearing to finalise the claim. The judge will look into all the information gathered such as evidence and medical reports and listen to all the views in court and make a decision. Your personal injury lawyer will prepare you and assist you all the way through the court process.

If successful, the compensation will be invested in the court funds office (to the litigation friend’s discretion) which nobody can touch until the minor reaches the age of 18.