It is possible for personal injury compensation claims to be made on behalf of a child injured in Queensland by a parent or legal guardian.
It is not possible for a child under the age of 18 to lodge a claim directly themselves, but children injured in Queensland do have until they are 21 years old to make a claim so it is possible to wait and make a claim once legally an adult at 18.
The Process for Making Personal Injury Claim as a Minor
- In Queensland, personal injury claims can be lodged on behalf of a minor, defined as someone below the age of 18.
- The primary responsibility for lodging the claim falls on the shoulders of what is known as a 'Litigation Guardian', typically the minor's parent or guardian.
The responsibility of the litigation guardian is to make decisions about the legal claim that are in the best interests of the minor. This includes deciding whether to accept settlement offers, whether to go to court if necessary, and authorising all steps and decisions relating to the claim.
It is also their duty to keep the child informed, in age-appropriate terms, about the nature, progress and potential consequences of the proceedings. They must manage all communications with the solicitor, be present at any required meetings, and sign any necessary paperwork on behalf of the minor.
However, it's important to mention that once the child turns 18 they have the option to file the claim themselves, as long as this is done before they reach 21. This gives the young adult the opportunity to handle the claim personally once they're legally old enough, which might be favourable depending on their circumstances.
Time Limits for Making Personal Injury Claims as a Minor
The limit for initiating a personal injury claim is typically three years from the date of accident in Queensland. However, this rule is somewhat relaxed when it comes to minors. The limitation period doesn't begin until they turn 18, giving them until their 21st birthday to lodge the claim themselves.
It is recommended, however, to begin the claim process as soon as possible after the accident for the best prospects of success.
Common Types of Accidents and Injuries Involving Minors
- Slip and Trip Incidents: Falls are commonplace for children but severe slips or trips in unsafe environments can lead to serious injuries, often leading to personal injury claims.
- School Accidents: Accidents arising inside school premises or during school activities, including playground mishaps or sports-related injuries, can be grounds for compensation.
- Car Accidents: Minors, either as passengers or pedestrians, can suffer significant harm in traffic collisions and may be eligible to make personal injury claims.
- Accidents in Public Places: If a child is injured in a public area, such as a shopping centre or park, due to inadequate safety measures, a compensation case might be pursued.
- Product-Related Incidents: Use of faulty toys or children's equipment can lead to harmful incidents, potentially resulting in personal injury claims.
- Accidents Involving Animals: Children are often injured by animals, especially domestic pets. These injuries can form the basis of compensation claims in certain circumstances such as attacks by dogs registered as 'dangerous dogs' by a local Council.
- Cycling accidents: Falls from bicycles or collisions with other cyclists or vehicles on the road can lead to extensive injuries, warranting compensation applications.
Importance of Documentation in Personal Injury Claims for Minors
Documentation plays a pivotal role in personal injury claims, particularly for minors, due to the extended time frame in which they have to lodge their claim.
As the duration from the accident to the claim being settled can be many years, keeping robust, detailed and structured records can be the difference between a successful and unsuccessful claim. The critical point is that over time, memories fade, and the particulars of an accident or injury become less clear. This means that recorded evidence becomes even more paramount. Examples of relevant documentation include:
- Medical records: These can verify the nature and extent of injuries, and inform about the immediate and long-term treatment required. Detailed information about medical expenses is instrumental in calculating compensation.
- Incident reports: If a minor's injury occurs at a public place or other establishments such as school or sporting club, an incident report should be filled detailing how the incident occurred. It's vital to request a copy of this report.
- Witness accounts: These help build a solid time frame and describe the circumstances of the accident. Information from any witnesses at the time of the accident should be recorded as soon as possible following the incident. Imagine a child injured in a car accident when they are 5 years old and then claiming once they are 18 years old, getting reliable statements of what happened many years later would be very unlikely.
- Photographic evidence: Photos or videos of the accident scene, the injury immediately after the accident, and the progression of the injury can be crucial pieces of evidence.
Why Can Compensation Claims for Children Take Longer to Settle?
There is often a delay in the settlement of compensation claims for children, compared to those of adults.
Understanding the long-term effects of an injury on a minor can be challenging. This difficulty arises because children are still growing, both physically and mentally. Predicting future issues related to prolonged medical treatments, pain management, and adjustments to lifestyle is especially complicated at a young age.
Additionally, predicting future economic loss becomes a challenge due to their unfledged career. They have not yet entered the workforce and thus, estimating the potential earnings they might lose out on can be a complex task. Therefore, these complications tend to extend the settlement period of personal injury compensation claims involving children.
Importance of Legal Advice for Children Injured In Accidents
- Legal advice can help parents and guardians understand their rights and responsibilities in relation to a child's injury claim, providing clarity about the legal processes involved.
- Experienced legal professionals can provide invaluable guidance in navigating complex legal procedures, which can be particularly overwhelming in traumatic injury cases.
- Depending on the type of injury, certain rules and laws come into play. Legal advice ensures that parents or guardians are aware of these specifics so that the child's claim is not jeopardised.
- Parents or guardians who seek legal advice can act promptly and take necessary steps, such as gathering and securely preserving critical evidence. The earlier such steps are taken, the easier it is to build a strong case.
- Lifetime implications of a child's injury may not be immediately apparent to parents or guardians. Legal advice can facilitate understanding of potential long-term scenarios and inform a fair compensation claim.
- Depending on the type of accident, a lawyer may be able to help you access funding from the insurer of the at fault party (such as CTP insurer for a car accident) to help cover medical and rehabilitation costs, giving your child the best chance of a full and fast recovery.
- In the event of a dispute, legal advice can help manage any legal arguments or divergent views from the other party, fast-tracking the resolution process.
- Legal advice can assist parents and guardians in the quantification of the claim, ensuring that the child's future health, education, and quality of life are adequately covered.
- Proper legal counsel can also contribute to emotional support and guidance, helping parents or guardians deal with potential legal stressors while they focus on the child's recovery.