Although it will be abundantly obvious to any parent, it should always be remembered that if your child has been injured in any form of accident, his or her health and safety and is much more important than any potential compensation claim that he or she may have. If the child has been seriously hurt, an ambulance (together with the Gardai if appropriate) should be called immediately.
It is of the utmost importance that you report to the casualty department of the nearest hospital, or at the very least make an emergency appointment with your general practitioner, should your child be injured in an accident. In the case of a road traffic accident, even if you feel that the injuries are not particularly serious, it is still advisable that you take your child to see a doctor. Never underestimate peace of mind. The reality is that monetary compensation is no substitute for your child’s health and wellbeing.
It should be remembered that your child’s attendance at hospital or with your local doctor will be recorded in his or her medical records which may later be used in evidence to support the claim. You should therefore assist your child in ensuring that all injuries and related problems are recorded accurately.
It is advisable that you contact a solicitor as soon as possible after you have addressed the immediate health and safety concerns. It is advantageous for the case to commence matters earlier as it will make the solicitor’s work of gathering evidence, including witness statements, easier because people’s memories of the incident will still be fresh. The procedure for a compensation claim by a minor is that proceedings are in fact issued in the name of his or her parent or guardian who acts as his or her ‘next friend’.
Unfortunately, it is very often the case (particularly with regard to road traffic accidents) that a parent and child are hurt in the same accident. As one would expect, the two cases, which are strictly speaking separate claims, will often be dealt with in tandem by your solicitor and the defendant’s insurers.
The law affords extra time for a minor victim (i.e. a child) to pursue a compensation claim. Under the Statute of Limitations, which normally limits the plaintiff’s right to claim to two years after ‘the date of knowledge’ of the injury, allowance is made so that in the case of a minor the date of knowledge of the injury is in fact the minor victim’s eighteenth birthday i.e. time does not begin to run against the injured infant until the infant reaches his or her majority (eighteen years of age).
Under current law, therefore, your child has has two years after his or her eighteenth birthday within which to issue proceedings in court.
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