Anonymous claims for children and protected parties

The principal of open justice requires that, in most cases, the identity of both parties in a Court case is made public and may be reported in the press. Fortunately, the vast majority of personal injury claims are settled before the start of Court proceedings. Both parties will be aware of the identity of the other, but personal information, details of the case and compensation remain between the two sides.

In matters where a personal injury claim is made on behalf of a child or "protected party", an adult who lacks the capacity to conduct their affairs, and this claim is settled out of Court, the Court is asked to approve the agreed settlement. This short Court proceeding ensures that the settlement is in the best interests of the child or protected party.

A significant development in the law now promises to ensure that "open justice" does not expose these most vulnerable claimants to undue risk.

Putting vulnerable claimants at risk

Although such proceedings are intended to protect the interests of the claimant, the requirement for the Court to be public can expose the claimant to unwanted attention, revealing personal information and the details of what are often significant compensation awards.

An application can be made on behalf of the claimant to have their identity protected. "Anonymising" the proceedings ensures that the claimant's privacy is respected and that potentially vulnerable claimants are not put at risk of future harassment.

A landmark decision

A recent landmark Court of Appeal decision, JX MX v Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust, gave general guidance that in cases involving the approval of a settlement for a protected party or child an order should now normally be made to anonymise the claimant's details and that no formal application would be necessary.

In respect of open justice, the Court found that the public interest "may usually be served without the need for disclosure of the claimant's identity".

Anonymity will now be granted in such cases as a matter of routine, with the burden now placed on the press to provide reasons not to grant claimants this protection.

Mark Bowman, representing JX MX, said:

"It is fantastic to know that as a result of our appeal that not only my client but claimants all over the country will now be able to pursue medical negligence or personal injury claims without the fear or worry that at the end of their claim."

"It is only right that the public should know that a defendant has had to pay out substantial compensation to an injured claimant, but there is no public interest in knowing who the claimant is or where he or she lives."

Can anyone make an anonymous personal injury claim?

Personal injury claimants are often initially reluctant to have their identity revealed to the party responsible for their injury or illness. A claimant may be concerned that making a claim against their employer might put their job at risk, that they won't be taken seriously, or that there will be other, unforeseen consequences.

There are many legal safeguards and best practices in place to protect personal injury claimants from any unfair consequences of making a claim. Additionally, there are many reasons beyond compensation to make a personal injury claim. Claimants often seek justice for their injury or illness and an acknowledgement of responsibility from the other side.

Making a personal injury claim also gives the party responsible the opportunity to take action to prevent harm coming to anyone else.

With solicitors mediating and advising, open dialogue between the two sides of a personal injury claim is the surest, and often fastest, route to fair compensation. Although it is not possible to remain anonymous to the party a claim is made against, Quittance's solicitors recognise the importance of these sensitive issues.

If you are considering making a claim, you can contact to Quittance to raise any questions or concerns regarding privacy before you start your claim. Your solicitor can discuss with you the courses of action you may take, before any contact is made with the other side, and will advise and support you throughout the claims process.