The summer holidays are now here and many of us are working out how to keep our school-age children occupied for the break. One thing we’ll all be hoping to avoid is a trip to A&E because of a fall or accident! But what if your child does break their arm at the local park, or trips over a rug and breaks their two front adult teeth at school before term ends? What would you think? Would you take legal action if the accident may have been someone else’s fault or instead remain uncertain as to your course of action? In this article we’re going to look at personal injury cases when they affect children and explain how things work.
Personal injury cases are often complex and emotional and we don’t always have the full picture at the time of the accident. In most cases where an injury claim is made relating to an injured child, the compensation claim can be made on behalf of a child at any time before their 18th birthday and, once they 18, they can then make a claim at any time before their 21st birthday.
Here we consider three different scenarios to help you understand the law as it currently stands. As with any legal issue, each person’s situation is different from someone else’s, so if you have any concerns about anything you read here, you are strongly advised to seek legal advice, with an initial consultation provided at no charge. Child claims can be generally divided into three common areas:
- lack of supervision – often against schools and clubs
- defective equipment or design, where this is inherent in the design or equipment itself;
- poor maintenance of an area or equipment.
Lucy and Charlie Brown are at the local play park. Charlie climbs and subsequently falls off the climbing frame, breaking his arm. Can he make a claim for the injury? Lucy notices the ground beneath the climbing frame isn’t as soft and bouncy as it is below the other play areas.
If the climbing frame is suitable, properly maintained, in good working order and the ground area around it is of a reasonable condition, then this may have been a straight forward accident. If, however, the ground surface was not properly maintained to a suitable and reasonably safe standard, it is possible that Charlie could bring a claim against the owners of the play park. Legal advice and representation would assist in finding out whether or not the ground was adequately maintained.
Children’s Supervised Activities
At gymnastics, Lucy is using brand new monkey bars. She is not used to them and slips, banging her head and scraping her face as she falls. Can she make a claim for her injury? If the equipment was suitable, safe and Lucy was properly supervised, having been given correct instructions about using the new equipment, then there are probably no grounds for a claim. If, however, the equipment was inappropriate for her age group or not properly maintained, or if Lucy was instructed to use the bars without any prior guidance or instruction, then a claim might be possible.
An investigation into the equipment purchase and level of supervision provided may lead to evidence supporting further legal action.
Charlie and Lucy have a brand new swing ball, bought from a reputable toy company, to play with in their garden. It is assembled correctly and while playing with it for the first time, the string becomes detached from the pole and sends the ball flying into Charlie’s face, hitting his eye and causing considerable pain. Does Charlie have a claim? Charlie would have a good case for arguing that the equipment was defective. It is possible that he can claim on the grounds that the equipment was poorly manufactured and/or inherently dangerous, especially if he learns that other children have been hurt in a similar way.
Personal Injury cases and Children
Personal injury cases can be emotionally difficult and having sound, individual advice from someone you trust can make all the difference to your experience of the whole process. There is a tendency to think that the large claim companies who advertise on TV are the best way to go but we would always recommend that you find a reputable, local solicitor who is able to handle personal injury cases. They will treat you as an individual rather than another number to be dealt with as quickly as possible; with children’s cases, that is often not in their best interests because the full implications of an injury may not be immediately obvious.
Compensation recovered on behalf of a child is usually paid into Court and invested on their behalf until they reach 18. Claims for even relatively low levels of compensation, on behalf of say a three or four-year old, could be a valuable nest-egg for them when they turn 18 and apply for the release of funds.
Stevan Stratton is a specialist personal injury lawyer able to offer advice and representation in a wide range of accident compensation claims.