Ten things I wished I known before my first Infant Approval Hearing.
- Confirm the Claimant will attend and will bring their birth certificate
On more than one occasion I have arrived at court to be informed the Claimant is not coming or is there but without their birth certificate. These simple errors can be prevented and rectified prior to the hearing by ensuring the Claimant has confirmed attendance at the correct time and has been reminded of the need to bring the birth certificate.
- Fill in the relevant court forms prior to attending court
You are likely to need a draft order, CFO 320, CFO 212 and CFO 403. You should fill these in as much as possible before attending court. This will allow you to be organised and focussed when meeting your clients and when appearing before the Judge. Top Tip: The Judge is usually grateful if you fill in the key information under the “To be completed by the Judge” section.
- Take spare copies of the relevant court forms
Amendments may be required during investment discussions. It is therefore a good idea to take spare clean copies of the court forms with you to court.
- Check and consider Counsel’s written opinion
This is an easy way to get to grips with the medical evidence quickly and the applicable JC Guidelines. It will assist you in framing your submissions for the approval of quantum.
- Confirm prognosis and recovery with your client prior to appearing before the Judge
Always check the Claimant recovered in line with the prognosis period and has fully recovered at the time of hearing. Make sure if there are any relevant future risks these have been considered, discussed and accounted for.
- Check whether any deductions ( or “payments out”) are to be made from the infant’s damages award
Confirm with the file handler what agreements have been made regarding deductions and what documentation has been filed in support of such deductions. Judges are increasingly reluctant to allow payments out from the damages award. It is best practice to discuss this position with the file handler before hearing.
- Be familiar with Part 21 of the Civil Procedure Rules
This governs the position on infant approval hearings. In particular CPR 21.12 and PD21.11 will need to be followed if deductions are being requested. Be familiar with the provisions and have a copy ready to assist.
- Confirm if costs have been agreed
If costs have been agreed the Judge shall order costs in the agreed sum. Check beforehand! It can expediate payments and bring conclusion to the case.
- Check whether the Claimant has their own investment account
If the Claimant has a trust fund account in their name and the funds cannot be accessed until the age of 18 this is likely to be a preferable investment option. The Judge is likely to request site of the account details.
10. Invite the Claimant and Litigation Friend to sit alongside Counsel at the hearing
The Judge may have some questions for the litigation friend or may want to have light-hearted conversation with the infant. This hearing is not an adversarial arena. Inviting your clients to sit alongside you makes it a more comfortable experience for everyone. Some Judges may even let the infant try on their wig and play Judge (no names mentioned).