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Children Injured at School – Insight in to Compensation Claims

We’re very in to giving the best advice we can right from the start – so when I read an article from the Express that discussed children claiming from schools, I thought I’d better write about it given the nature of the contents.

The article itself is reminiscent of the majority media news stories about claims – rife with tired cliches like the “compensation culture” and “ambulance chasing lawyers”. For anyone who has had to make a claim for compensation having been injured through no fault of their own, suffering serious injury and losing thousands of pounds in earnings, these stories can be insulting.

But to discuss the issue of making a claim against a school, here are the key facts you need to know:

Negligence

To win a claim, we must be able to prove that there has been negligence. You cannot simply claim because you’re injured – there must have been a breach of duty on behalf of whoever you are suing. So in the case of a school, we must prove that they are negligent.

This is actually very difficult to do. If it’s something obvious like a child being injured by a defective door or a dangerous surface, it’s much like many other claims for similar things in public places. But if a child falls off a climbing frame or is pushed over by another pupil, what could the school have done to have prevented this? In the latter scenarios, it’s extremely hard to win a claim.

Funnily enough the article mentions one child slipping on a floor – a common type of claim in many public settings.

A popular argument many parents will ask advice about is lack of supervision. But even then, proving that the lack of supervision was the cause of the accident as opposed to kids being kids is extremely difficult.

Critics argue that ambulance-chasing law firms are fostering a culture in which children are prevented from taking the normal risks of growing up.

In reality, this kind of statement is nonsensical. There is a clear difference between kids being kids and a school being negligent. I fail to see how lawyers can be blamed for fostering a culture – no one is forced to make a claim.

We get a lot of enquiries from parents who want advice about making a claim against their school and we generally turn away the majority of them because we do not believe the claim has strong enough prospects of success.

The Courts

Even in a scenario where we genuinely believe that the school has been negligent, winning a claim at a final hearing is extremely hard as well. The courts are known to be reluctant to award payouts to people when its taxpayers’ money that’s going to be used.  This again shows just how difficult it is to win a claim against a school.

For child claims, most cases will go to court for an Infant Approval Hearing where a Judge will approve a settlement because the child cannot accept offers themselves since they’re not the legal age of majority. It can be argued that the payouts awarded for children are normally very fair given that it requires the courts intervention.

The Payouts

If we take the example from the article of the £56,000 payout, this is quite a lot of money. But claims are valued based on the severity and length of suffering. The article fails to elaborate on what injuries were caused, but if you look at the official guidelines, payouts that attract these kinds of awards are things like:

  • Moderate Brain Damage – with concentration, memory, and ability to work being affected – £30,750 – £64,750
  • Total Loss of One Eye – £39,150 – £46,900
  • Traumatic Chest Injuries – lung(s) and / or heart permanently damaged, causing impaired function, physical disability, and reduced life expectancy – £46,000 – £71,850
  • Neck Fractures / Dislocations – causing significant and permanent disability – £32,500 – £40,000
  • Serious Hand Injuries – reducing the hand to 50% capacity – including where several fingers have been reattached leaving the hand clawed, clumsy, and unsightly – £20,750 – £44,200
  • Severe Leg Injuries – leading to permanent mobility problems and the need for crutches of aids for the reminder of a person’s life – £39,150 – £60,400

Injury payout guidelines can be used to show how serious an injury can be. For a payout to be £56,000 it sounds like a serious injury case that would need to be dealt with by an experienced and senior solicitor – it’s no trivial matter.

How would you feel if this was your child suffering from such a serious and permanent injury?

The ‘compensation culture’ has already been addressed in official government reports to be nothing more than a media fuelled myth – not that you’ll see that kind of information in the press.

To reiterate the key facts here:

  1. Winning a claim against a school is very, very difficult – there must be negligence to win a claim
  2. Even a claim with evident negligence isn’t easy to win – the courts are reluctant to award compensation payouts using taxpayers money
  3. An award of £56,000 is evidence of a potential serious injury claim

IMPORTANT: advice on this page is intended to be up-to-date for the 'first published date'.

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