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How to bring a personal injury claim for a child – The role of a Litigation Friend

07 June 2019

Having an injured child is every parent’s worst nightmare. Navigating through the medical terminology and understanding the consequences and ongoing impact of your child’s injury can be frightening and confusing. If the injury is the result of someone else’s wrongdoing then a personal injury claim can be considered and if successful, will compensate not only for the injuries sustained by the child, but also any future treatment that may be required.

Under English Law, a person cannot bring a claim themselves until they reach the age of 18. The Limitation Act reflects this and allows for the three year period to bring a personal injury claim to run from a child’s 18th birthday if this is after the accident date. However, that is not to say that children have to wait until adulthood to bring a claim. In order to do so a ‘Litigation Friend’ must step in to act on the child’s behalf until they reach the age of 18.


Who is the Litigation Friend?

A Litigation Friend is usually a parent, but, it can be any adult over the age of 18 that is able to act in the child’s best interest without any conflicting interests such as a family friend or relative. They must be competent to make fair and well informed decisions throughout the life of the case or until the child reaches the age of 18 and can take over the case themselves if it has not already settled.


What do Litigation Friend's do?

The Litigation Friend will act in the child’s place and make all the decisions in relation to the case before they reach the age of 18. It is therefore important to consider carefully who is best placed to make these decisions when appointing the Litigation Friend. They will need to consider all of the medical evidence and advice on the case from the legal representative.

If the case settles before the client reaches the age of 18 then any settlement must be approved by the court at an Infant Approval Hearing. At this stage the Litigation Friend will need to attend the hearing, usually with the child they are representing, and confirm that they are satisfied with the settlement.


How are Litigation Friend's appointed?

A Litigation Friend is not formally appointed until proceedings are issued at Court, although, their role starts when solicitors are first instructed on behalf of the child. To be formally appointed, a Certificate of Suitability of Litigation Friend will need to be signed to confirm that the Litigation Friend is satisfied that they can act for the child without any conflict. This form will be completed by your solicitor who will list the reasons why the Litigation Friend is a suitable choice. The form is then sent to the Court.


When does the role stop

The Litigation Friend will need to act until the child turns 18 and can manage the case independently.

If the case settles before the child reaches this age then the Litigation Friend is usually appointed to manage the funds via the Court Funds office until the child is old enough to manage these themselves.

There are other methods of managing the funds which can be put in place as well depending on the circumstances and needs of the child.

Appointing a Litigation Friend allows a personal injury claim to be brought by a child before they reach the age of 18. In the case of serious injury, this allows potential for interim payments and other steps for rehabilitation to be taken during the life of the case to ensure the best possible recovery for the child in question.

Despite the formal name a Litigation Friend is appointed simply to act in the child’s best interest as any parent or guardian does on a day to day basis. Via Barlow Robbins we will ensure that a Litigation Friend, like any client, will receive the best possible advice to make the best decisions throughout the case for their child.

By Laura Tonna-Barthet

For further advice on the above topics, please call us on 01483 464222 or alternatively email enquiries@barlowrobbins.com

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