Infant approval hearings in child injury compensation claims
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In many ways, the process of making a personal injury claim for a child is the same as for an adult. However there are some key differences, most notably concerning the personal injury claims time limits and the Children Act 1989.
To learn more about children’s injury claims, read our complete guide here: How to make an injury compensation claim for children. In this guide we will be explaining in more detail about a specific area of children’s claims that we get asked about a lot – infant approval hearings…
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What is an infant approval hearing?
An infant approval hearing is sometimes referred to as a Damages Approval Hearing, and takes place after the court has settled a children’s injury claim.
Unlike in an adult’s compensation claim, it is not enough for the Claimant to simply accept a settlement amount and to then receive payment. In cases involving children there is an extra step which involves judicial intervention. The child’s case needs to be put before a Judge so that he or she can confirm that the amount that has been offered by the Defendant is acceptable in the circumstances.
When a claim is made regarding a child’s compensation, there can be no final acceptance of the settlement amount without the approval of the Court. This is to act as a further safeguard for the child. The purpose of an infant damages approval hearing is therefore to:
- Ensure that the child’s claim is not under-settled
- Allow the Court to make sure the child’s compensation award is appropriately managed and invested until they turn 18
Infant approval hearing process
Once a settlement figure has been agreed between the two parties and their legal representatives, the solicitors will prepare and submit the relevant paperwork so that it can be put forward for an infant approval hearing.
The child Claimant will be required to attend the hearing along with their litigation friend – usually the parent/legal guardian. The original birth certificate of the child will be needed so that the Judge is able to verify the child’s identity before the hearing can commence. The infant approval hearing will be held in the Claimant’s home court so that the child does not have to travel large distances.
On commencement of the hearing the Judge might ask the child or their litigation friend if they have recovered in line with the prognosis made in their medical report. The Judge will then consider the settlement amount and decide if it is approved. It is important to note here 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.
It will then be invested in the court funds office until such time as the child turns 18. An application can be made to pay the compensation amount into an alternative account, but the Judge only approve this if it can be satisfactorily shown that the amount will be paid into an account that is in the child’s name only and they are not allowed to access it until they are 18.
At this point it is possible to request an interim payment out of the settlement amount, although this will usually only be awarded if the Judge feels it is for the educational benefit of the child. If you want to apply for an interim payment to purchase something in particular then you will need to take some form of documentary evidence with you to the hearing, such as estimates of costs or receipts.
Do all child injury claims require an infant approval hearing?
Not all child injury cases necessarily require an infant approval hearing. It is optional in cases which have not yet been issued, and the decision on whether to obtain damages approval can depend on the size of the settlement and if you have the flexibility to invest the settlement yourself. With small amounts of money it may be deemed not worth the time and hassle for a hearing, and with the court funds currently offering very low rates an investment with better returns might be found elsewhere.
It is important to stress though that the money received as a compensation payout is the child’s alone and cannot be used for any other purpose, even something that would benefit the child as well e.g. family holiday, new family car, new house etc… The only exception is if you have expenses as a direct result of the child’s injury or condition such as physio costs.
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 CL Legal 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.
Children’s Act 1989 and ‘in loco parentis’
The Children Act 1989 is an important piece of legislation when it comes to determining negligence in terms of how a third party has treated your child, who is subsequently injured. The ‘third party’ could be anyone who interacts or looks after your child for any period of time such as a teacher, child minder, nursery nurse, dentist who is deemed to have accepted a duty of care towards your child.
As part of the Children Act, the third party carer should adopt what is known as ‘in loco parentis’, which basically means they should behave in the same manner towards any child in their care as if they were a ‘reasonable parent’. In other words, they should act with the same level of responsibility and care as could reasonably be expected of any parent. This can, of course, lead to some dispute when it comes to defining what constitutes ‘reasonable’ behaviour – but it is usually obvious when this behaviour has been lacking.
Child injuries in public places
While the Children’s Act 1989 deals with any injuries that occur while your child is in the care of a recognised ‘care giver’, it doesn’t provide much guidance when it comes to your child having an accident and sustaining an injury in a public place such as a shop, museum, bus/train station, cafe etc…
In these cases then a combination of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Occupiers Liability Act 1957 state the duty of care the people and organisations responsible for the public places have to ensure they provide a safe environment. If these responsibilities have not been met to a reasonable standard, which has led to your child being injured, then you could be entitled to make a claim for compensation.
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