JMK Solicitors are Northern Ireland’s leading road traffic and personal injury firm, acting for more clients than any other local firm of Solicitors. JMK represent clients of all ages but one of the most misunderstood areas is personal injury claims involving people under 18 years of age, otherwise known as ‘a minor’. Bernadette Morgan, Solicitor at JMK, gives her views on why minors need to have legal representation.
When a minor has been involved in a road traffic accident and has sustained an injury they are entitled to recover fair and reasonable compensation for those injuries. The minor is in a vulnerable position due to their age as they cannot deal with the claim themselves. The responsibility for pursuing the claim and protecting the minor’s interests is with the minor’s parents or legal guardians.
Compensation can be recovered in two ways. Either dealing directly with the at-fault party’s insurers were the minor is not legally represented or by obtaining legal representation and placing the claim in the hands of a solicitor.
Recent statistics have shown an increase in the number of unrepresented minor claimants which is concerning for several reasons. When an insurer deals directly with the minor’s representative it is unlikely that any medical report setting out the nature and extent of the injury would have been obtained. In these circumstances, there is no way to guarantee fair and reasonable compensation.
The insurers are not impartial and in dealing directly with the claimant a conflict of interest arises.
The insurers will aim to prioritise their own financial position, and not the injured person.
In unrepresented cases, once compensation has been agreed it is then paid out to the adult dealing with the claim on behalf of the minor, again the vulnerable claimant is put at risk. There is no guarantee that the compensation will be either protected or invested to give the minor the best return by time they turn 18 and are entitled to receive their compensation. The person who received the money will have to answer to the now adult victim who now wants their compensation. A terrible situation that could cause unnecessary conflict in a family.
On the other hand, when a solicitor is instructed, they will take a full and detailed account of all injuries should they be physical or psychological. A copy of all relevant medical records would be obtained and reports obtained from appropriate consultants touching on the nature, extent and prognosis for recovery of the injuries sustained.
Once a settlement figure has been agreed in principle, in order to protect the minor further the amount will be put forward for Court approval. This gives an additional layer of protection, ensuring that the figure awarded is fair and reasonable.
The compensation amount is then invested and the capital plus interest paid out to the minor when they turn 18. Only in exceptional circumstances can an application be made to the Court for an early payment out of the capital fund, any payment out is made at the Court’s discretion.
The parent or guardian of a minor has an obligation to protect the rights of the minor claimant and should question whether the unrepresented route, that is, dealing directly with the at fault party is truly acting in the minor’s best interest.
The legally represented route, on all levels, clearly gives greater protection to the vulnerable injured party. Putting their needs first and obtaining the best outcome possible for them.
Established in 2003, JMK Solicitors operates from offices in Belfast and Newry, servicing clients from across Northern Ireland. If you would like to contact JMK Solicitors, please call their Newry Office on 028 3025 7766 or Belfast office on 028 9032 0222.