Currently, in Northern Ireland, only those compensation settlements for a child which are agreed upon during legal proceedings must be approved by the court.
Usually, the award is then managed by the Court Funds Office until the child turns 18.
However, if compensation for a child is agreed upon before any legal proceedings are issued, seeking court approval is voluntary.
This means that court protection of the settlement is not always provided.
The absence of a legal requirement for all compensation settlements for a child to be approved by a court gives rise to a concern that there may be cases in which parents, sometimes without the benefit of legal advice, maybe settling claims with insurance companies for a sum that may not properly compensate the child or be utilised in the child’s best interests.
A judicially led Review of Civil Justice in 2017 recommended legislation to address this issue.
Justice Minister Naomi Long said, “I want to ensure, in a proportionate way, that children are properly compensated for personal injuries and that there is appropriate protection of their awards.
“This consultation seeks views on whether or not there is a need for legislation and, if so, how that legislation might work.”
The Department is therefore seeking views on whether and if so how, it should legislate to compel court approval of all compensation settlements for children agreed outside legal proceedings, in particular, whether this should apply to all such settlements or only those over a certain value.
The consultation will run from 7 July 2021 to 24 September 2021.