It is estimated that over 200,000 children are injured on day care center and school playgrounds every year to the extent that the child is evaluated and treated in a local emergency room. These statistics increase with the number of children injured on a playground and treat with a medical provider other than an emergency room. Many of these injuries are preventable with better supervision and better maintenance of the playground equipment. Some injuries are neither preventable or foreseeable. This brings us to the common questions. Is a day care center liable every time a child is injured while in a playground area? The simple answer to this question is No. This raises another question. When is a day care center liable for injuries that take place on a day care center playground? It should be noted that each case or potential case is evaluated on its own facts and merits. Like other personal injury cases or claims, the particular case must be investigated and evaluated as to four essential elements as follows: Duty, Breach of Duty, Causation, and Damages.
Duty. This refers to the duty of the day care center to provide a reasonably safe environment and play space for the children while on the playground. It is important that the playground equipment is age appropriate, properly assembled, and routinely maintained. There is also the duty of proper supervision. It is vital that staff members are dutifully watching the children to make sure that play is safe and the children are kept out of danger. It is well-known that children lack good safety awareness. Furthermore, children do not always listen. This is especially true for children enrolled a day care center or pre-school program. If a child is engaged in a dangerous activity that could harm himself / herself or others, child care providers should immediately intervene and discourage / stop the dangerous activities and behavior. It should be noted that in the State of Florida a child under the age of 6 years old cannot be held to be negligent as a matter of law. As such, a day care center will not get too far arguing that the day care center's negligence should be offset by the negligence or fault of a child under the age of 6 years old.
Breach of Duty. This refers to the failure to honor or complete one or more the duties outlined above. As stated, each case and incident must be evaluated on the particular facts and circumstances leading up the the incident. The Breach of Duty may be related to a statute, administrative rule, a policy or procedure of the day care center, common law, or just plain old common sense. That's right, common sense can come into play even in the arena of an insurance case or claim.
Causation. This refers to the link between the Breach of Duty and the injuries caused by the Breach of Duty. In other word, the failure to act reasonably led or caused the injuries or damages sustained by the child. Another way to put it is "but for" the actions or inactions of the staff at the day care center - the child would not have been injured.
Damages. This refers to the injuries suffered by the child. Personal injuries can range from scratches to fractures to even death. Again, the facts and circumstances of the case must be evaluated to determine if there is a case to pursue from both a legal and practical standpoint. If the day care center breached its duty and caused an extremely minor injury that only required a band aid for one day, then this may not be the kind of case that can or should be pursued from a practical standpoint.
A Florida Personal Injury Attorney can guide a parent through the above elements of a case, the applicable laws and regulations, and the recommended course of action. David A. Wolf has over 30 years of experience handling personal injury cases including child injury and day care cases. Certainly, when a child is injured as a result of the negligence of a day care center, a parent should reach out for a consultation to discuss the legal rights of the child and what causes of action can be pursued on behalf of the injured child.