NI: Personal injury lawyer welcomes recommendation to protect children’s rights
A prominent personal injury lawyer has welcomed moves to protect children’s rights in claim cases.
Maurece Hutchinson, managing director at JMK Solicitors, added that legislation on the issue had to be implemented as swiftly as possible.
Figures obtained by the Belfast-based firm from the Compensation Recovery Unit (CRU) show that 1,832 people in Northern Ireland aged below 18 years had no legal representation in claims cases between 2010 and 2016. In 2016 alone, children were not represented in a total of 455 cases.
However, an early recommendation from Lord Justice Gillen’s review of civil justice in Northern Ireland is that “legislation be brought forward to compel a requirement for court approval for all legal cases involving a settlement or award of damages to minors”.
Ms Hutchinson said: “We have vigorously campaigned for action on this issue and I’m pleased that the issues we have raised have now been acknowledged as part of the Lord Chief Justice’s civil justice review.
“However, the pace of change in legal circles moves slowly and we would like to see the recommendations keenly embraced by those responsible in this area to ensure that protection for minors is assured at the earliest opportunity.
“More specifically, when insurance companies are making offers to settle an injury claim with an adult who has not sought expert independent legal advice, every insurer should not now make an offer to compensate any children who were also injured.
“While insurance companies are not under any mandatory legal obligation to insist that the child obtains their own legal advice in the absence of this legislation, I would hope that the trade body for the insurance industry, the Association of British Insurers (ABI), will urge its members to act now and take on board the recommendations and guidance which is clearly outlined.”
She added that in the absence of legislation, it was vital for parents or guardians to be aware of their rights and obtain legal advice.