There are two ways that a claim can be dealt with if the Claimant is under the age of 18, namely by way of a Parental Indemnity or Court Approval.
A Litigation Friend must be appointed in all cases that involve a minor. The Litigation Friend is usually the minor’s parents who must act in the minors best interests and will provide instructions on behalf of the minor.
Parental indemnity is where the Litigation Friend will sign a parental indemnity form accepting an award from the Defendant in full and final satisfaction of the minors claim. By signing this parental indemnity, the Defendant will then be discharged from all future liability and the payment is made out directly to the Litigation friend. This approach is however not recommended and is hardly adopted by law firms due to the future complications that may arise.
Applying for Court Approval is the more preferred approach. The Claimants Solicitors will agree a settlement figure with the Defendants insurers subject to Court Approval. The Claimants Solicitors will obtain advice from a Barrister on the value of the claim before reaching a provisional settlement with the Defendant.
Once the Claimants Solicitor has submitted an Application to the Court, they will receive a Notice of Hearing confirming a date for the Infant Approval Hearing. The Solicitors will normally seek to ensure the hearing is at a Court that is local to the Claimant.
The Claimant and the Litigation Friend will need to attend the hearing and the Litigation Friend must ensure they take the Claimants original birth certificate with them. The Claimants Solicitor or a Barrister will also attend to represent the Claimant.
The purpose of the hearing is for the Court to be satisfied that the settlement is a reasonable and proper one. The hearing will take place before an Officer of the Court known as a District Judge who will have read the medical reports dealing with the Claimants injuries. In appropriate cases, he will also have a copy of the Barrister’s written opinion about the compensation. The Defendants Insurer’s may have a representative present to confirm their agreement to the settlement.
Some District Judges may want to ask the Claimant or Litigation Friend questions about the symptoms arising from the injury. If the District Judge is not satisfied, then it is possible that he or she may require further medical evidence to be obtained and presented at a further appointment although this is comparatively rare. Assuming that the District Judge is satisfied about the settlement, then the insurance company will have to pay the money into the Court office within a given period, usually 14 days. The monies will continue to accumulate interest at highly competitive rates until the Claimant attains the age of 18 years at which point the Court can be contacted with a copy of the birth certificate and proof of identity so that arrangements can be made for payment. It is important that the Court is kept advised of any change of address.