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“Hot“ Day Care Center Vans and Negligence - Personal Injuries and Wrongful Deaths

Red VanUnfortunately, the streak of summers in which a child is left alone in a "Hot" day care center van or school bus continues. During the summer time as well as other “Hot” months during the year, there are far too many reports of children being left behind in a "Hot" day care center van or bus. In some instances, the school bus driver / day care center worker is arrested and charged with a misdemeanor or felony crime. In most instances, the act of leaving a child behind in a vehicle is accidental, neglectful, and / or careless. In other words, the school bus driver / day care center worker did not intentionally lock the child in the "Hot" day care center van or school bus. To be charged with a crime, the State Attorney does not necessarily have to prove that there was intent to harm a child. The pursuit of a criminal prosecution will depend on the particular facts and circumstances. It will also depend on the judgment and call of local law enforcement and the state attorney / district attorney. The criminal prosecution of a careless school bus driver / day care center worker may also depend on the injuries sustained by the child left behind. If the child suffered no physical harm, this may be one factor considered in making the decision whether the school bus driver / day care center worker is charged with a crime. It should be noted that the elements and standard of proof for a criminal case differ than the elements and standard of proof for a civil case. To pursue a civil case or claim on behalf of a child, there are essentially four elements to establish or prove as follows:

  1. Duty;
  2. Breach of Duty;
  3. Causation; and
  4. Damages

A day care care or summer camp has a duty to provide reasonably safe transporation when transportation is provided. It is important for day care centers, schools, and summer camps to keep children out of harm's way. The temperature inside a van or school bus that is parked without the air conditioner on can easily exceed tempertures of 100, 110, and even 120 degrees. This, in turn, can put a child in danger of hyperthermia in a short period of time. A simple checklist on a clipboard can go a long way to protecting children and making sure that each and every child is removed from the school bus or day care center van. In many instances, a child miraculously escapes serious injuries because a bystander, first responder, or other person locates the child and gets the child out of the vehicle. If there are no injuries suffered by a child, a civil case or claim may be declined for representation by a Child Injury Lawyer due to the lack of the fourth element which is called Damages. Certainly, an argument can be made that the incident caused stress and emotional trauma to the child who was left behind; however, it may be a challenge to prove any long term damages resulting from such an incident. In other instances, a child suffers serious personal injuries and even dies as a result of being left in a "Hot" day care center or school bus. Whether the physical or medical harm seems minor or is more serious, the matter should be reported to the the school, day care center, and when appropriate law enforcement and the applicable state agency that licenses the school, day care center, or summer camp. Furthermore, each incident of a child being left behind in a "Hot" day care center van or school bus should be evaluated on its own unique facts and circumstances as to the pursuit of a civil case, criminal case, or both.

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