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Title: Can my kid claim compensation?

Date: 06 August 2014

Question

I had a bike accident a month ago. I was carrying my 15 year old son on the back when a car pulled out of a side road without looking. Fortunately I swerved out of the way and there was nothing coming in the opposite direction. But I did hit the ground and we were both slightly injured. My son sprained his wrist and wrenched his shoulder. I have found a lawyer to act for me but no-one will take my son’s case on. Why is this?

Simon Palser, Reading

Answer

There is no legal minimum age for a pillion passenger but there are requirements to be met such as they must wear a correctly fitted, safety approved helmet, be able to comfortably reach the foot-pegs, and if they are under 17 be riding with a parent or guardian’s consent so assuming this was all fine it must be for financial reasons as opposed to a fear that your son was not complying with the legal requirements.

I say this because acting for children in personal injury claims that involve minor injuries has become economically unviable in the majority of cases. In cases involving hit and run or untraced drivers or in more serious injury cases you shouldn’t find it difficult to find a lawyer to take the case on.
But because of the ridiculously low fixed fees that these cases attract because of the Government’s changes of April 2013, law firms don’t want to take them on as they are losing money on them. This is made worse by the often irrecoverable cost of representation at an infant settlement approval hearing (which the courts insist takes place so there is no getting around that).

This is compounded because judges in many cases have been going against the costs rules by refusing to make a success fee payable by a child despite there being no such exclusion in the rules. The cost of appealing these incorrect decisions is once again not economically viable. The net result is children involved in road traffic accidents who are not badly injured are finding it very hard to find a solicitor to take on the case and as such access to justice has been hampered. The Government will realise the problem when the courts are clogged up with parents of such children trying to fight their cases themselves.

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