As parents, we worry constantly about the safety of our children. When our children are under the care of someone else, the feelings of worry and helplessness increase significantly. Since many parents must work, childcare is a necessity. While we want to feel confident that our children are safe when under the supervision of another, there are times when children are not properly supervised, or safety measures are not taken.

Yes, kids will definitely be kids, and accidents absolutely happen, but there is a difference between an accident and an injury caused by negligence or improper supervision. If your child has been injured as a result of negligence and you are unsure of what you need to do, an experienced daycare negligence lawyer from Finney Injury Law can help you make these critical decisions.

How Common are Childcare Injuries?

The reporting standards for childcare institutions vary widely across the United States, with each state setting its own requirements for reporting injuries. In fact, according to USA Today, only about half the states require licensed childcare programs to report serious accidents. As a means of closing this serious information gap, in 2014 it was announced that any state receiving financial subsidies from the federal government would be required to report serious injuries to the federal government.

This information would then be posted on a website so parents could make important decisions about which childcare to choose. Unfortunately, not all states have complied with this requirement. While there may be a lack of mandatory reporting requirements, about 38 states require child fatalities in licensed childcare settings to be reported to the state licensing agency, and twelve states do not require reports of a fatality in a childcare facility. As you can see, as of now, there are no solid statistics regarding the prevalence of injury in childcare facilities.

If your child is the victim of injury or neglect while in a childcare facility, it is important that you report the incident to the proper authorities as quickly as possible. The childcare injury lawyers at Finney Injury Law in St. Louis, Missouri can help you determine the steps to take to ensure the safety of your child.

Where Do Most Childcare Injuries Occur?

In addition to daycare facilities and schools, children can be injured at summer camps, during after-school care, or while in a vehicle crash while at a daycare or childcare facility. Playgrounds are, by and large, the most common source of injuries in childcare settings. According to the CDC (as reported by DC Insurance Services), more than 200,000 children aged 14 and under are taken to the emergency room every year for a playground injury.  These injuries range from minor cuts and bruises to major traumas.

It is important that playground equipment at a childcare facility meets safety standards and has no loose screws or nails, sharp edges, or other hazardous parts. Playground areas must be free of large rocks, tree roots, or other hazards that can cause a child to fall. Children, particularly younger children, must always be properly supervised when on a playground.

Indoors, falling objects are a major hazard to children in childcare settings.  Items may fall from bookcases or shelves, or, in some cases, the shelves or bookcases themselves fall on a child. Heavy objects must always be placed on lower shelves, and bookcases and shelves must always be secured to the wall to prevent these serious accidents.

Something you might not think of that can be a potential hazard in a childcare setting is a bottle warmer or a crockpot used to heat bottles. Scalds are one of the causes of burn injuries to children under the age of four, particularly in this situation when a child tries to get his or her bottle. It is much safer to heat formula by running the bottle under warm running water in the sink.

Falls are yet another hazard in a childcare setting, particularly if stairs are not protected by a gate. Even stairs that are protected by a gate could result in a fall when a child attempts to climb over the gate. As growing children run and play, slip and falls are to be expected. When a slip and fall occurs because a child is left unsupervised, or their environment is not safe, this is another thing entirely. When children fall due to the following hazards, a slip and fall goes beyond normal childhood falls:

  • Loose handrails on staircases;
  • Loose cords across walkways;
  • Unsafe or poorly maintained playground equipment;
  • Shoving or bullying by other children;
  • Climbing on bookshelves or television stands that are not secured to the wall;
  • Climbing accidents as a result of being left unsupervised;
  • Ladders left out;
  • Spills that are not promptly cleaned up, and
  • Unsafe outdoor areas, including sidewalks, driveways, and parking lots.

Swimming pools can be a serious drowning hazard if not surrounded by a child-proof fence and gate. Unsupervised children are at the highest risk of drowning; therefore, the AAP recommends “layers” of protection to prevent pool accidents or drowning. Fences that are at least four ft. high should surround all four sides of the pool. The fence should have slats that are sufficiently close to prevent a child slipping through. The gate latch should be at least 54 inches from the ground.

Inside the daycare, safety gates, door locks or childproof doorknob covers should be used to ensure a child does not slip outside unnoticed. Since the surfaces surrounding a pool can be slick, falls can also occur, causing head injuries, broken bones, lacerations, and neck and spinal cord injuries. Your daycare providers should be CPR certified and have basic water rescue skills if there is a pool in the vicinity.

Summer camp injuries are also, unfortunately, relatively common. Summer camps have a legal responsibility to ensure your child’s safety by employing due diligence when hiring, and ensuring all activities are as safe as they can possibly be. Swimming accidents can occur at summer camps, and, like daycare facilities, camps must ensure swimmer safety at all times. Heatstroke or severe sunburns can occur when children spend hours in the sun engaging in outdoor activities. Proper hydration, sunscreen application, and allowing for adequate rest are all crucial elements to avoid heatstroke and sunburn. The grounds, including playground equipment must all be properly maintained to avoid accidents, and there must be proper supervision at all times.

Some children are enrolled in after school care while their parents are at work. If your child’s school has this type of program, the same rules that apply during school hours will apply for after school care. There must be proper supervision at all times, both indoors and out; outside surfaces and playground equipment must be well-maintained with no apparent hazards.

A childcare injury lawyer from Finney Injury Law can help you determine if your child’s injury was the result of negligence or simply an accident.

What Should You Do if Your Child is Injured While in Another’s Care?

All parents must be fully aware of their child’s daycare accident and injury policy, and due diligence must be performed to ensure the daycare and employees are properly licensed. Individuals in a daycare center must pass a background check and have basic safety and medical training to earn their certificates. Church daycares are often an exception and may not require licensing.

When determining who is liable for your child’s injury, it must be determined whether the act that caused the injury was intentional or negligent. An act of negligence could be something like a lack of enough properly trained adults at the facility or could be the result of a safety hazard that has not been addressed. A childcare facility could be found negligent if it is determined the accident was foreseeable—that is, if the school knew of a certain condition that could cause an injury but failed to remedy the situation.

If an injury occurs, seek immediate medical care for your child. If negligence caused the accident, and you are unsure of your rights, contact a negligent daycare lawyer from Finney Injury Law. We can help you pursue a legal claim when appropriate and can ensure your child’s injury receives the attention it deserves.

FAQ: Childcare Negligence Settlements, Whose Money Is It?