As we all know and appreciate, small children are the most vulnerable among us, and great care must be taken to protect their safety. Accidents can happen quickly if proper steps are not taken by those in charge of their welfare. Despite our best intentions, however, needless accidents happen, and injuries will occur. Hopefully, the injuries will be minor. But if your child is seriously injured, you need to know what to do first and what to expect.
The experienced child injury attorneys of Reeves, Aiken & Hightower LLP are standing by to help. For more information on your options, call us at 877-374-5999, or use the contact form on this page, for a private consultation to evaluate your case.
Some of the more common causes of injuries to children include:
Car Accident Injuries (child passenger)
To minimize or prevent harm if involved in a vehicle accident, it is critical that they be placed in approved child safety seats and that older children be seatbelted, ideally in the center of the back seat. As children grow, the child safety seats change with them, usually based on weight. Follow the guidelines and make sure your child has the proper seat so that they are protected.
It is always a difficult decision to put your child in the care of another. Both mothers and fathers often feel guilty but have no real choice given the economy. They research the “best” daycares and may visit several before deciding which one. However, given the current demands for daycare, many facilities have waiting lists for new members. Unfortunately, these same facilities may not have enough staff to properly care for the children in their charge. When left unattended, bad things can and do happen. Some examples include crib accidents, choking, poisoning, unexplained falls or broken bones, child negliect and even abuse.
Playgrounds, whether set up and maintained by a town, daycare, or school, are supposed to safe places where kids can go play. However, if not properly installed or maintained, they can become very dangerous and result in serious injury. There must be regular inspections to make sure all the screws and parts are still there. Painted surfaces must be maintained so that rust does not weaken vital parts. And mulch or other soft landing material must be kept at safe levels in anticipation of falls when children are playing. Loose ropes or other potential strangulation hazards must be inspected and checked for safety. If these steps are not taken by those in charge, serious permanent injury, including paralysis, and even death can happen.
Despite their bright yellow color and large size, school bus accidents occur on a regular basis. Drivers not paying attention still pull out in front of school buses or hit them when running red lights or stop signs. The children inside still sit without seatbelts, and there are no airbags to protect them. The most serious cases involve buses that are struck and then “roll over” onto their side or upside down. Broken bones and head injuries are the most common injuries in these cases.
Swimming Pool Accidents / Drownings
As with playgrounds, many towns, apartments, and neighborhoods offer swimming pools for use by the public or residents. Many of these locations will try to limit or deny any liability by placing “swim at your own risk” and “no lifeguard” signs. However, despite these attempts to avoid responsibility, the law still requires proper maintenance and oversight. Pools must be properly gated and lighted to prevent falls and small children from getting into the pool area. Concrete walkways and pool cleaning equipment, especially any drain suction devices, must be regularly inspected and repaired. And all required safety and rescue items must be present and replaced as necessary.
Swimming pools will often be subject to the legal theory of attractive nuisance. When a land owner has an artificial condition on his or her land, like a swimming pool or a trampoline, if that artificial condition is likely to attract child trespassers, and the artificial condition is likely to injure those child trespassers, the land owner will be found to be negligent, if he or she fails to make the artificial condition safe against the child trespassers. So, if the owner of a swimming pool does not take reasonable steps to prevent children from injuring themselves in the pool, the owner will be negligent regardless of whether the children were trespassers or not.
Amusement Park Injuries
As with any business that invites the public onto its premises, amusement parks must take all reasonable steps to make sure their park is safe and secure. Rides are getting more aggressive and must be inspected more often in order to find trouble before it is too late. Parts wear out and will need replacement sooner than calmer rides of the past. If a decision is made to save costs by not following a manufacturer’s maintenance requirements, serious injury or death can occur. In addition to manufacturer guidelines, amusement parks are generally tightly regulated by state and federal laws, and failure to follow the law may be a ground for negligence on the part of the amusement park. Despite the regulation and obvious danger, we sadly are seeing more news stories about tragedy at “fun parks.”
Another great concern at amusement parks is child abduction or assault issues. Amusement parks owe a duty to their guests to provide reasonable security. In this day and age, we are encountering more instances of child abuction and/or assaults. Amusement parks can provide a safer environment by adding security cameras, additional employees, and even safety guards to make sure people are safe. Some parks even hire off-duty regular police officers and place them in high visibility areas to deter bad behavior. Also, steps must be taken to avoid patrons from bringing and consuming alcohol or drugs onto their property. The idea is to have fun with your family. With a few simple steps, parks can make sure that is all that happens.
It is difficult to understand how a dangerous toy ends up on the shelves. But they do. And, only after a number of children are hurt or die do manufacturers issue a “recall” of the “defective” toy or product. Sometimes, there is never a recall. Instead, the suspect toy simply stops showing up at stores. Always follow the “age” recommendation on the package and regularly check for loose or missing parts. Other items, like cribs and seats that hang from door frames, have to be checked as well and monitored during use. If your child can get their head between railings, return it and get something safer.
Medication Errors/Pediatrician Malpractice
Prescription medications have gotten stronger over the years. And, because children are smaller and weigh less, they can be affected more quickly and seriously if they are given the wrong prescription. Pharmacy errors are more common than in the past. More and more medications with fewer employees is a prescription for mistakes. Oftentimes, the major drug stores and even grocery stores hire minimum wage high schoolers to do the final checkout at the counter. Always check your medication and ask questions if you have any concerns.
Despite all of the advances of modern medicine, birth is unfortunately still one of the most dangerous medical events in the life of both the child and the mother. Obstetricians (OB/GYN’s) appreciate the risk and take great care in every delivery. However, mistakes are still made, and injuries do result.
Children love puppies and dogs. And they are shy about running up towards a dog to get a hug. Unfortunately, the dog misinterprets the action and defends itself. Owners of dogs have a duty to put their dogs up when children are around to prevent this very scenario. Also, some homeowners insist on having “dangerous” dogs and fail to take proper precautions to make sure their neighbors are safe. Fences may not be enough if the dog can climb over. And it is always surprising at how many cases involve unrestrained dogs off leash who end up attacking neighbor children.
Vehicle Backup Injuries
Sadly, despite backup cameras in newer vehicles, small children are still injured and killed by parents or friends who simply do not check what is behind their vehicle before putting the vehicle in reverse. Always make sure you know where children are before getting into your car. Go slowly so that you can avoid the unthinkable.
Special Defenses Apply to Children
Even though children will be children, the law does not always allow them to recover in every situation. All states have specific laws which address legal defenses to injuries involving children. In SC and NC, the law is commonly called the “rule of sevens.” Children below the age of 7 years old are deemed to be legally incapable of negligence. From 7 to 14 years of age, there is a presumption of innocence, but that legal presumption can be rebutted. After the age of 14, children are essentially held to the standard of an adult “reasonable person in the same or similar situation” standard.