Unlike adults, claims for injuries suffered by children can be started many years after the event.
Most people are vaguely aware that they have three years from the date of an accident in which to bring court proceedings (or sometimes three years from their “date of knowledge”) – see the Limitation Act 1980. What is not so well-known is that for children the clock does not start to run until their 18th birthday. So any child who has an accident under the age of 18 can start court proceedings up to the date of their 21st birthday.
I act for a young woman who suffered a nasty injury to her arm and hand when she was involved in a “hit and run” accident back in September 2003. She told me that English is not her parents’ first language and they knew nothing about the English law. She also explained that for various cultural and social reasons they decided not to investigate bringing a claim for the injuries that she suffered. She was 9 years old at the time of the accident and of course knew nothing about the law!
Because of the accident my client needed surgery to pin and plate her arm. Sadly, she has been left with a weakness in her hand and possibly some nerve damage to her thumb. My client left school and qualified as a beauty therapist but her hand problems quite often cause her difficulty at work. She spoke to me just before her 18th birthday to find out if anything could be done to help her to bring a claim so many years after the accident.
I applied for a copy of the police accident report but it could not be located by the police. At the same time I requested my client’s records from the London Ambulance Service. These were provided and rather helpfully mentioned that she was the victim of a “hit and run” accident.
With this information I made an application on her behalf to the Motor Insurers Bureau (MIB) under the terms of its “Untraced Driver’s Agreement”.
The MIB is an organisation set up by the government in conjunction with the Department of Transport and interested insurance companies to compensate people who are the victims of untraced or uninsured drivers.
Following the Court of Appeal ruling in the case of Byrne v Motor Insurers Bureau in 2008, the MIB entered into a supplementary agreement with the Secretary of State for Transport which allows, in respect of accidents occurring on or after 1 February 2009, a claim to be brought by a child or a person under a disability within the same time limits as would apply to personal injury claims in the civil courts under the relevant Limitation Acts for England & Wales and for Scotland.
The MIB also agreed with the Department of Transport to make arrangements to deal with claims of this type which arose from accidents occurring prior to 1 February 2009. (My client’s accident happened in 2003.)
Because of this separate arrangement, the MIB agreed to review and reconsider previous cases that had been rejected and to consider any other claims not previously notified which would not have been brought because of their previous application of the three year limit.
Were it not for this separate agreement my client would have been unable to progress her own claim and would have been bound by the views of her parents all those years ago. I suspect that at the time her parents would have had no idea that she would still be suffering all these years later.