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A road accident is traumatic for anyone, but if it involves a child, it can be extremely damaging—physically and emotionally—for the child and their loved ones.

While as a parent you’ll naturally want to do all you can to help your child recover from a road accident, it can be hard to know what action to take on your child’s behalf.

This article covers what your child might be entitled to and what you should do after a motor vehicle accident to protect your child’s rights and future.

Injured children are a tragic reality of our road transport system

Every year, far too many Australian children are seriously injured or killed in motor vehicle accidents. In 2017, 18 children aged 0-14 tragically lost their lives when they were injured as vehicle occupants and a further 27 were killed as pedestrians[1].

The number of children who are seriously injured in a given year is much higher, with almost 5000 seriously injured as pedestrians alone in the eight-year period ending 2009-10[2]—that’s over 600 seriously injured children a year.

Motor vehicle accidents affect whole families

Any parent knows that children are resilient and can bounce back from lots of negative experiences.

However, children can be more affected emotionally by an accident than adults. A child may not suffer any physical injuries but may still suffer psychological damage such as anxiety after an accident.

There may also be impacts that don’t become obvious until months or years after the accident. This is the biggest challenge facing families—trying to assess how the injury will affect their child’s future enjoyment, employment prospects and independence as an adult.

In the case of serious injury, while children don’t lose any income, they may need a greater level of care from their parents or guardians because of their injuries and any ongoing disabilities.

This adds to the strain on a family already struggling through a traumatic experience.

Your child may be eligible for transport accident compensation

An injured child will potentially have transport accident rights, whether they were injured inside a vehicle or as a pedestrian. You, as their parent or guardian, should lodge a claim on their behalf.

Compensation is generally paid by an insurance company or the government agency that manages these types of claims in your State or Territory.

The schemes are slightly different between states, so it’s best you get help from an experienced motor vehicle accident lawyer who understands the scheme where you live.

The Victorian scheme has a range of benefits for injured children and their families

Victoria has a “no fault” transport accident scheme run by the Transport Accident Commission (TAC). Under the TAC scheme, minors injured in a transport accident may be eligible for benefits towards medical and like expenses from the date of their injury.

Then, children have six years from their 18th birthday to explore their entitlements, compared to adults who have six years from the date of the accident.

An injured child may also be eligible for a minors’ additional benefit.

When they turn 18, they can be reassessed and if they’re still eligible, they’re entitled to a lump sum payment.

In the tragic event of serious injury such as quadriplegia or brain injury, children may also be eligible for common law damages.

Parents may also qualify for loss of wages payments from the TAC to cover hospital visits to their injured child.

All these processes can become complex very quickly, so it makes sense to have an experienced lawyer helping your family through the system.

How legal support can help your child and family move forward after an accident

Having an injured child is burden enough for any parent.

A lawyer can give you expert, independent advice and help you navigate the compensation scheme, so you can focus on your child's recovery and wellbeing.

As soon as possible after the accident, make an appointment to see a lawyer and get advice about what benefits your child might be entitled to.

Even if the accident was minor or there are no immediately obvious injuries, you can find peace of mind in talking to someone about what to do if things change.

If it’s clear your child will have common law damages (a major injury) it’s vital to take early action so your child can benefit from the compensation sooner.

We work with both the child and the parents on the claim

Our Slater and Gordon’s Motor Vehicle Accident team knows how important it is to include the child and the parent/s or guardian in the claim process. The younger the child, the more heavily involved the family will be.

Working with the whole family helps us find out how the child’s injury is affecting them—and their caregivers—on a day-to-day basis, so we can tailor the claim for the best possible outcome.

There are no crystal balls, so we stay in touch and are ready to help down the track

We do all we can to maximise a child’s compensation rights. Because it can be difficult to assess how their injury will affect them in the future, we arrange a schedule of check-ins and stay in touch with the family to monitor the situation.

When the child turns 18 and is ready to reassess their entitlements, they can come back to us with the assurance we’ll be here to help them on their way.

How we can help

We’re proud to provide our clients with access to leading, affordable legal services, including our “no Win, No Fee” offer, as well as free counselling support if needed.

If you have a question, want some more information or would just like to speak to someone, our experienced Motor Vehicle Accident team is available to talk to you as soon as you need.

You can make an enquiry online or phone us on 1800 555 777.

[1] Australian Bureau of Statistics: Causes of Death, Australia, 3303.0, 2017. Released 26 September 2018. Available at: http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/3303.0

[2] Bureau of Transport, Infrastructure and Regional Economies, 2012, Information sheet 043, Child pedestrian safety: 'driveway deaths' and 'low-speed vehicle run-overs', Australia, 2001-10. Available at: http://www.bitre.gov.au/publications/2012/files/is_043a.pdf