If your child is injured in an accident at school due to someone else’s negligence the law will not allow them to bring their own case for personal injury compensation if they are under the age of 18.

Therefore, your options are to bring a case on your child’s behalf or wait until they become an adult so they can bring their own claim. Therese Classon, a Partner in the Personal Injury team at WBW Solicitors in Newton Abbot explains.

There are a number of ways a child can come to harm at school: they could slip on spillages that have not been properly cleaned up, or obstacles which should have been sign-posted as a hazard; they can fall off climbing equipment, or suffer a sports injury in a match which was not adequately supervised.

A compensation claim must ordinarily be brought within three years of the person’s injury manifesting itself, otherwise a court will usually rule the claim ‘out of time’. However, in the case of a child, the three-year limitation period only starts to run from the date of their 18th birthday, which means they have until the day before their 21st birthday to start a claim.

You may prefer to bring a claim for your child’s injury on their behalf earlier than this, acting as a ‘litigation friend’. This may be preferable, as evidence will be easier to come by and the accident will be fresher in the minds of your child and any potential witnesses.

Who you sue would depend on what sort of school your child attends. If they go to a state school or a maintained nursery school, your action would be brought against your local council; for foundation and voluntary aided schools it would be the governing body; for independent schools, the proprietor; and for independent academies, the head teacher and governors.

As in any other personal injury claim, to obtain compensation on someone else’s behalf you need to show the person/body responsible owed a duty of care to the person injured (school professionals almost always will), that they breached this duty of care, and that the injuries were a result of this breach.

You can strengthen your child’s claim by providing evidence such as photographs of your child’s injuries and the accident scene. You should obtain details of any potential witnesses, and write an account of what happened and how the injury has affected the life of your child and your family. Your solicitor will also arrange for your child to be examined by a medical expert who will assess how the injuries were caused and what affect they have had on your child’s life.

Your personal injury solicitor will strive to negotiate an out-of-court settlement; however, a child’s compensation settlement must be court-approved, so you and your child will need to attend an infant approval hearing at a local county court, along with your solicitor. The hearing is informal and usually held in private. The judge will decide whether the compensation agreed satisfactorily compensates your child for their injuries.

Any compensation award will be paid directly to the court and kept in trust for the child until they reach the age of 18, although where the compensation amount is smaller, the money can be paid into the child’s bank/a child trust fund, the court will specify. The parent or guardian can ask the court for some funds to be released if the child needs something specific while still under the age of 18.

For more information on claiming compensation for a child’s accident at school, or any other personal injury issue, contact Therese Classon, a Partner at WBW Solicitors in Newton Abbot, on 01626 202328 or email thereseclasson@wbw.co.uk.

WBW has offices in TorquayPaigntonNewton AbbotExeterBovey Tracey,  Exmouth,  Honiton,  Sidmouth,  Launceston,  AxminsterChard and Seaton.

This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.