Claiming medical negligence compensation on behalf of a child
If a child has suffered because of neglectful or inappropriate medical treatment, it’s up to an adult to make a claim on their behalf. Coodes Solicitors’ Partner and clinical negligence specialist Julie Hatton explains more about making a medical negligence claim on behalf of a child.
Medical negligence affecting children can involve everything from misdiagnosis, delays in diagnosis or birth injury claims. If you believe that a medical professional has breached their duty of care to your child, you might have a case.
However, the claims system can be complicated and diverse. Parents often feel unsure about what their rights are and whether they can make a clinical negligence claim for their child.
Acting on behalf of your child
Children under the age of 18 cannot claim compensation for medical negligence because they are too young. However, an adult can make a claim for them.
Usually, a parent acts on their child’s behalf as what is called a ‘Litigation Friend’. This means you are there to protect your child’s interests and instruct a solicitor on their behalf.
It’s worth noting that medical negligence claims for children are not limited to negligence by a paediatrician (a doctor who diagnoses and treats health conditions affecting babies, children and young people). If a general practitioner (GP), surgeon or any healthcare provider has been negligent in treating your child, resulting in an injury, then your child may have a claim.
Where to start if you want to make a medical negligence claim for your child
To make a compensation claim, you will need to instruct a specialist clinical negligence lawyer. They will work closely with you to establish whether the care your child received fell below the standard of a reasonable body of medical opinion and no other responsible professional would have treated your child in the same way. This is called breach of duty. The courts will also need evidence of a link between the ‘breach of duty’ and your child’s illness or injuries. They will also need to work out the level of compensation your child will need to help them live as independently as possible.
Your lawyer will need to get copies of your child’s medical records and instruct an independent medical expert to advise on whether any sub-standard care caused your child an injury. If the medical reports support your child’s claim it will also be necessary to obtain evidence to show the extent of the injuries. If there is a psychiatric injury, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) caused by the clinical negligence, your lawyer may commission a specialist child and adolescent psychologist to produce a report.
If you obtain supportive expert evidence your lawyer will send a Letter of Claim to the healthcare provider. They can take several months to investigate and respond.
Our experts here at Coodes can help you throughout and will keep you up to date with how your child’s case is progressing.
The time limits for children’s medical negligence claims
Most clinical negligence compensation cases are subject to a three year deadline. Called the ‘limitation period’, this means you have three years following the injury, or your knowledge of the medical negligence, to submit your claim.
Medical negligence cases for children work differently. The time limit for submitting a clinical negligence claim for an injured child is three years after the child turns 18. However, although you are given more time in these cases, it is important to investigate possible claims as quickly as possible after the incident. That is because events will be fresh and relevant documents and witnesses are available. Starting early also means your child is likely to access compensation sooner.
Who agrees the compensation?
Court approval has to be sought before settling medical negligence claims for babies and children. This means that a judge approves the amount of compensation the injured child will receive, whether or not the person or organisation responsible admits liability.
After this, the compensation is put into a Special Investment Account, which your child can access when they turn 18.
The court can release some of the funds before the child turns 18 if there are certain reasons to do so. This could be to pay for special education or medical treatment needs.
Serious injuries caused by medical negligence
In some cases, an injury is so serious or complex that doctors might not be able to predict the long-term consequences until the child is older. In this situation, claims won’t be finalised. Instead, it is possible to look at interim payments to help meet a child’s on-going care needs until the full extent of their injuries are known.