A recent Court of Appeal decision has made it easier for children and “protected parties” (adults who lack mental capacity to conduct their affairs) to have their identity protected when settling a claim for personal injury or clinical negligence.
Claims are often brought by Claimants who have suffered serious injuries. For example, a child who suffers from cerebral palsy caused by problems during their birth; or an adult who has sustained neurological damage because of mismanagement of their medical treatment, or because they were involved in an accident. The amounts of compensation awarded in these cases can be substantial and might include the cost of private care, medical treatment, therapies and adapted accommodation for the Claimant.
Successful claims are usually settled out of Court. However, the Court must be asked to approve any settlement agreed on behalf of a child or a protected party, to ensure that it is in their best interests. A short Court hearing is often held for this purpose.
As Court hearings take place in public and can be reported by the press, Claimants and their families are often understandably concerned that their identity, personal information and details of their compensation will become public knowledge. This takes away their privacy and, in some cases, can put vulnerable Claimants at risk.
Previously, the Courts have been willing to hear applications on behalf of individual Claimants, to have their identity protected when bringing a claim. In the recent case of JX MX v Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust, the Court of Appeal gave more general guidance that, where a settlement is being approved for a child or protected party, an order should normally be made to anonymise the Claimant’s details. This means that it will no longer be necessary for individual Claimants to apply for this protection; it will usually be given as a matter of course when the Court approves a settlement and will mean that the identity of the Claimant, their parents and litigation friend will be protected.