Infant and Child Injuries
A child or person under the age of 19 under the law in British Columbia and is considered an “infant.” Through the negligence of another person when an infant gets injured they can suffer injuries the same as an adult, and depending on the age of the child, the type of injuries suffered and the effects of those injuries, a child can be entitled to compensation for the same reasons as an adult.
When the injured person is under the age of 19, the procedures for resolving the claim through negotiation or through the Courts is not the same as that for an adult, mainly because of the necessary involvement of the office of the Public Guardian and Trustee of British Columbia.
When an adult agrees to settle his or her claim for a certain amount of money, the adult signs a release agreement and in exchange, receives his or her settlement amount. In the case of an infant’s claim, the settlement must be approved by the Public Guardian and Trustee, and in the case of settlements over $50,000, the Public Trustee reviews the proposed settlement and then makes recommendations to the Court as to the appropriateness of the settlement, including any legal fees if the infant has a lawyer, and then the Court makes the final decision on the matter.
In supporting the proposed settlement, written submissions must be provided to the office of the Public Guardian and Trustee. The submission must explain:
- the circumstances of the accident
- the injuries suffered
- whether the infant has ongoing or permanent symptoms
- limitations arising out of the injuries
- amount of compensation proposed
- as well as reasons to justify the proposed compensation
- the steps taken in the litigation process
- if an action has been commenced
- any relevant legal issues (such as liability or contributory negligence) that might affect the amount of compensation,
- the amount of legal fees proposed.
Relevant medical or other documentary evidence Accompanying the written submissions must also be included to the Public Guardian and Trustee to fully consider the merits of the claim and proposed settlement.
When the settlement is approved, the settlement monies are forwarded to the Public Guardian and Trustee’s office where they are held in trust for the infant until he or she attains the age of 19 years.
If the Public Guardian and Trustee’s office does not approve the settlement, an application can be made to Court to approve it, although the application is likely to be contested, or the matter is referred back for further negotiation or gathering of evidence or information as the case may require.
This process is designed to protect the interests of the infant, and it can provide peace of mind to the infant’s parents in the way of ensuring their child has received a fair settlement.
Want more information on the Public Guardian and Trustee’s role in an infant’s personal injury claim, see the website of the Public Guardian and Trustee of British Columbia: http://www.trustee.bc.ca/services/child-and-youth-services/Pages/infant-settlements.aspx
Typically, the limitation period within which a legal action must be commenced in personal injury lawsuits is two years from the date of the accident, but for infants, the limitation period is postponed until two years after the infant attains the age of majority (19 years of age). Also, an infant’s legal action must be commenced by a “Litigation Guardian” (typically one of the child’s parents or a legal guardian) who can instruct the lawyer and receive and consider legal advice. A parent who may have been at fault for the child’s injuries is not eligible to act as Litigation Guardian.
Because of obvious complexities involved in pursuing a claim on behalf of a child, it’s always a good idea to retain a lawyer to assist with the process, and despite the additional steps the lawyer is required to take in the course of representing an infant, there are no additional legal fees. Buckley & Company has represented numerous infants with injuries ranging from mild whiplash type injuries to catastrophic brain injuries. We understand the devastating effect a child’s injuries can have on a family, and we strive to handle these claims with professional integrity and respect and consideration for the family of the injured child.