Road Traffic Accidents Involving Children
Across the globe, road traffic accidents are the leading cause of death among children and young people between the ages of five and 29 years old. Figures from the AA show that around 5,000 children under the age of 16 die or are seriously injured on Britain’s roads each year.
These figures demonstrate just how vulnerable children are, not only while travelling in vehicles, but also when walking or playing in close proximity to roads.
If your child has been involved in a road traffic accident, either as a passenger or a pedestrian, you have likely experienced significant distress. Not only are you likely to be anxious about the wellbeing of your child, but you may also feel confused about your legal rights when it comes to seeking compensation following the incident.
JMW is here to help. Our comprehensive guide below will provide information on the steps you should take following a road traffic accident involving your child, as well as helping you to determine who is responsible for the incident itself.
Children are Vulnerable Road Users
Despite the UK having one of the best road safety records in the world, children in Britain are more likely to be killed in road accidents than in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain or Sweden.
Some children are at more immediate risk than others, such as those with disabilities, those without access to play facilities and those with a lack of supervision from an adult.
According to the AA, preschool children are the least at risk of death or injury on the road, partly due to the universal use of car seats for the very young. As children grow older, however, they are more likely to travel without using a seatbelt, or to utilise adult belts without a booster cushion - which can lead to injury.
Older children are also at a more pronounced risk of being killed or seriously injured in a traffic accident outside the car - for example, when walking or playing.
Who is at Fault When a Child is Involved in a Road Traffic Accident?
It is not uncommon for parents or guardians to feel responsible if their child has been involved in a road traffic accident, either as a passenger or a pedestrian. However, it is not always possible for them to predict what other road users will do, and, unfortunately, accidents do happen.
While most drivers do practice proper safety procedures while behind the wheel, incidents still happen and children do sustain injuries. In some cases, accidents may happen even when there is careful vigilance and adherence to the rules of the road by all parties involved, making it difficult to determine where accountability lies.
For example, if a child is found to have run into the road without looking, or if a motorist needs to swerve in order to prevent a collision with a child who is playing in the road, they may make a claim against the child’s parents for negligence.
On the other hand, parents can also make a claim on behalf of their child to compensate them for any injuries they have sustained.
Am I to Blame for My Child’s Involvement in a Road Traffic Accident?
The circumstances of the incident will determine whether you are found legally responsible, but there is nothing to be gained by blaming yourself and pursuing compensation on behalf of your child is one way to set things right.
It is not uncommon for insurance companies to attempt to implicate parents for failing to instil a child with sufficient road safety knowledge, or for inadequate supervision. This can cause greater distress to parents who are already worried about their child.
What Should I Do if my Child has Been Injured in a Road Traffic Accident?
The most important thing to do immediately after a road traffic accident has taken place is to ensure that everyone involved receives the medical care they need. Then, you should exchange contact information where possible and make a note of the details of the accident, including where it happened and when. You should also report the incident to a police station.
Should you decide to pursue a compensation claim, this information will prove valuable in determining who is responsible and whether your case is likely to be successful.
What Evidence is Needed to Make a Compensation Claim?
If your child has been involved in a road traffic accident, you will strengthen your case for compensation if you have as much evidence as possible. You should:
- Take photographs or videos of the scene, ideally as soon as possible after the incident
- Ask any witnesses for their contact details
- Ensure your child receives appropriate medical treatment as soon as possible
- Take photographs of any injuries sustained
Once you have collected this evidence, a solicitor can start working on your case as soon as possible.
Is There a Time Limit on Making a Claim?
For adults claiming compensation, there is usually a three year time period from when the accident occurred in which they are eligible to make a claim. However, for children, they have until three years from the date of their 18th birthday, which means a claim can be made at any time before they reach 21 years old.
Can I Make a Claim on Behalf of my Child?
If your child has not yet reached the age of 18, a parent or guardian may act on their behalf while the child is too young to pursue the claim for themselves. This is referred to as a ‘litigation friend’ and means you can make decisions about the case when dealing with solicitors.
What Happens to Compensation Secured for my Child?
Settlements made for injuries to children are required to undergo an Infant Approval Hearing, which is different from the way in which adult claims are dealt with. Usually, this hearing will take place in a court that is local to you, to ensure that the injured child is receiving the appropriate amount of compensation for their injuries.
Any compensation secured for a child is placed into a trust fund, where it is kept until they reach the age of 18. This ensures that compensation is only used by the child in question when they reach adulthood.
In some instances, funds can be withdrawn from the total compensation to pay for any items they require urgently - for example, medical devices or treatment to help them recover from their injuries. If this money is required, the child’s parent or guardian must contact the court in writing to request the funds.
How Can JMW Solicitors Help Me?
At JMW Solicitors, our legal experts have handled many cases on behalf of children who have been injured in road traffic accidents. We are able to take on cases on a no win, no fee basis, which means there are no financial risks involved for you and your family.