As devastating and damaging as injuries to adults can be, injuries to children can be even more difficult to deal with. There is an inherent contradiction in children, in that they are the segment of society we are committed to protect, yet by their very nature and activities, children are often more likely to sustain personal injuries than adults.
That may be due to their immaturity or simply the events that they engage in. As parents, we often have to make the choice between sheltering our children or allowing them to enjoy even those activities that carry inherent risk of injury.
There is little we can do to resolve this dilemma—but we can at the very least expect product makers and those who supervise our children to act with due care when they are involved in our children’s activities.
It is easy to dismiss children’s injuries as simply “kids being kids.” But upon closer look, there is often a party that was responsible for injuries that our children sustain.
Problems With Supervision
For example, we may believe that it is to be expected that a bunch of children who are playing on a day care playground could be injured. Sometimes, that is true, but sometimes an accident can be avoided by the day care providing proper supervision of the children.
Critical questions must be asked of the day care. How many adults were with the children (specifically, what was the child/adult ratio)? How trained are the supervising adults? How many kids were allowed in the play area at once?
These same questions can be applied when a child is injured at a friend’s house, or anywhere children congregate and adults supervise. This is often called “negligent supervision.” Most people do not even realize that it is a potential claim, but where kids are injured and adults are supposed to be watching, it needs to be a consideration.
This is also common in “bounce-house” injuries—the portable event services that offer bounce houses and similar large inflatable activities for birthday parties. In many cases, supervisors may be ill trained, may allow too many children on them at once, may allow larger children with smaller ones in small confined areas, or may underinflate the rides. It is common for kids on slide-type rides to be allowed to slide too close to each other, resulting in contact injuries as one child crashes into another.
Children’s Injuries From Sports Activities
Sports activities are another arena where we are likely to dismiss injuries as “to be expected,” when in fact, many are avoidable.
Surely, injuries are a part of every sport and not every sports injury is a result of negligence. But in many cases, injuries can be exacerbated by the failure to properly react to and treat them. Questions arise as to whether the sponsoring organization has proper first aid equipment and provides sufficient trained staff to deal with injuries.
Many states are even recognizing the obligation of gyms and leagues to providing working heart resuscitation equipment on-site, along with training in the usage of such equipment.
Sports equipment and playing areas should be evaluated. Children may sprain their ankles playing basketball, but they should not do so because there is a gap or crack on the basketball floor. Football or soccer fields should be well enough maintained to avoid unnecessary injury. If equipment is involved, questions as to whether the equipment is a proper fit for the size of the child must be evaluated.
Children’s Injuries When Using Products
Of course, children are also injured while using products—hoverboards, skateboards, or any number of devices. Sometimes, the injuries are just the natural and normal result of using a product. But often, there is a defect in the product itself that causes a problem.
Products often come off of long assembly lines, and quality control from unit to unit can vary. For example, a hoverboard may have a malfunctioning wheel, or react erratically to ground surfaces.
Children’s injuries involving products often involve questions of proper usage. Adults should read and follow all safety and maintenance instruction to avoid a negligent defendant from putting the blame on them as the child’s supervising adult.
Exculpatory Clauses Becoming Common
Knowing the risk of children’s injuries, many manufacturers, daycare centers, leagues, and businesses have resorted to exculpatory or “hold harmless” contracts, where a parent agrees not to sue someone if their child is injured.
Unfortunately, in many cases, those clauses actually hold the facility harmless for their own negligence. They often hold themselves harmless for even events that are outside the scope of the activity itself. This means that if a bounce house operator were to run over a child with a truck—an event totally unrelated to the bounce house activity—a parent could be prohibited from suing.
A lawsuit against Clair’s made headlines some years back, when a parent signed such an agreement. When the child was mutilated after a botched ear piercing, the parent sued. Because of the hold harmless clause, which prohibited such suits even if Clair’s was negligent, Clair’s actually won a judgment against the child’s parent.
The best advice is to read these agreements and hold harmless clauses and avoid activities or facilities that require them.
Be critical of children’s injuries, and do not be quick to dismiss them. The law recognizes that all adults have a heightened duty to safeguard, monitor, and protect children. Often, it turns out that what you thought was a routine injury was actually something that was very preventable.
Do not analyze your child’s personal injury and its causes by yourself. Get qualified legal help, that understands the special needs that children injured by the negligence of others have. Contact the personal injury attorneys of Brill & Rinaldi today for a free consultation about your case.