In Ireland, the law considers children to be anybody under the age of 18, so essentially from newborns right through to teenage years until the child turns 18.  Should an infant/child/teenager suffer an injury that was caused from somebody else’s fault, then their parent or some other responsible adult can take legal proceedings on their behalf.  This type of adult is known as a ‘Next Friend’.

Can a child or young person take a personal injury claim?

A child or young person can take a personal injury claim in Ireland provided an adult known as a ‘Next Friend’, steps in for them to do so.  Alternatively, the child can wait until their 18th birthday when they are considered an adult and then they can take a claim themselves in their own name.  The usual two-year statute of limitation begins to tick from the child’s 18th birthday, which means they must lodge their personal injury application before their 20th birthday.  It is, however, preferable that some adult lodges the personal injury claim on behalf of the child before their 18th birthday as the passage of time in some cases can prejudice a successful case, such as CCTV or other evidence being lost or the fading of memories and possibly the non-availability of witnesses as time passes.  It is also far better to start a personal injury claim as soon as possible to ensure that the legal rights of the child/young person are protected.

Personal injury claims involving children will normally succeed as the law recognises that children and young people do not necessarily have the same level of maturity as adults should have and as a matter of common sense, it is understood that children are inquisitive and will take risks.  Therefore, there are obligations on people responsible for private property or public amenities such as playgrounds and parks that their property and equipment are safe and do not pose a threat or danger to children who can often not recognise or appreciate the risks and suffer injury as a result.

Accepting a compensation payment of behalf of a child should a settlement be negotiated with the wrongdoers’ insurance company and the child’s representative

The compensation settlement figure or proposal must then be approved by the Court.  This is to safeguard the best interests of the child to ensure that the settlement figure is fair and reasonable for both the child and the defendant insurance company.  If the Court approves the settlement, the monies are then lodged with the Court Office until the child turns 18 and an application is then made for the release of the monies directly to the now young adult.  In some instances, it can be possible to get a partial release of the money if it is for the personal benefit of the child and an application to the Court must be made for that, for example, we recently represented a child whose parent needed release of some money to help pay the cost of their child’s orthodontic treatment and an application to the Court was successful.

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