The risk of suffering harm due to clinical negligence is not just something which applies to adults. Children can also suffer harm, whether it is during their birth or through any other medical treatment as they grow up. So how does a claim differ for a child to an adult?
The law is quite complex when it comes to making a claim for a child. This is because the courts have extra duties to protect children. This blog will only provide a brief overview and useful information but, if you have a child who you think might have suffered negligent medical treatment, it is extremely important you seek expert advice from a specialist clinical negligence solicitor.
Generally speaking a child must have a litigation friend to bring legal proceedings on their behalf. A child is anyone under the age of 18. A litigation friend is any responsible adult who can act competently on the child’s behalf without any adverse interest in the claim. Usually the litigation friend is the child’s mother or father or guardian but someone can also be appointed by the court when necessary.
Working out how much a claim is worth is always a difficult task in any case, none more so than for a child’s case. This is because often we have to try to predict what needs the child will have many years into the future and what potential financial losses will be incurred in their adult life. The younger the child, the harder this prediction is to make and it is therefore fairly common to postpone calculating final figures until the child is older, when a more accurate future prediction can take place.
Even if the claim settles whilst the child is still young, they cannot receive most of their compensation until they are 18. There is generally a two stage process: first, before the final figure can be formally agreed with the Defendant, it has to be approved by the Court – this is a safeguard for the child to ensure the settlement is appropriate for them and in their best interests as they cannot make the decision for themselves.
Second, if approved the money is usually either paid into the court or into a trust where it is then protected for the child (it will then automatically be paid to the child when they reach 18, if they have mental capacity at that age). If a child does not have mental capacity to manage their own finances at the age of 18 (which is usually determined by medical evidence) then a Deputy will be appointed by the Court of Protection to manage the child’s compensation into the future in the child’s best interests.
If you are concerned your child might have suffered injury due to negligent medical treatment it is crucial to seek expert advice from a clinical negligence specialist.
The Clinical Negligence Team are very experienced in investigating claims for children who have been injured at birth or during their childhood. We can help you every step of the way from investigating the claim as a litigation friend to starting proceedings and settling the claim. We can even help you set up and run a trust for any money received for the child. Please contact me or one of my colleagues for further advice on making a clinical negligence claim for a child.