With the school year rapidly coming to a close, parents and kids alike are preparing for their summer camp adventures. Many summer camps offer a variety of services, including tutoring and special needs care, but most camps attempt to keep your kids entertained for the summer with a plethora of outdoor activities. With such activities, however, especially when large groups of campers are involved, adult supervision might be minimal. Florida does not require, and frankly cannot, a one-to-one adult to child ratio. Accordingly, when your children are engaged in outdoor and water related activities, they may be prone to personal injuries due to lack of supervision.
The Florida Department of Children and Families sets forth the laws and regulations governing child care facilities in Florida. However, these regulations do not apply to your child’s summer camp. In fact, summer camps are specifically excluded from the definition of Florida childcare facilities. Florida law actually defines “summer day camp” as “recreational, educational, and other enrichment programs operated during summer vacations for children who are 5 years of age on or before September 1 and older,” but such day camps are excluded from certain licensing requirements otherwise applicable to childcare facilities. Day camp employees are, however, required to undergo certain employment screenings, including employment history and criminal background checks.
According to medical reports, the most common injuries suffered by children attending summer camp are not “injuries” at all but rather illnesses. Sunburn, gastroenteritis, and contagious infectious diseases are among the most common illnesses suffered by children attending summer camp, and it is actually twice as likely that your child will become ill at summer camp than injured.
Such illnesses, however, can result in personal injuries. For example, an untreated infectious disease might result in scarring and permanent damage to a child’s flesh or organs. It is recommended that if you child is sick, he or she not attend summer camp and is taught to constantly wash her hands and maintain good hygiene at day camp. Further, a summer camp may be liable for keeping conditions of the camp unsanitary or failing to follow certain food safety regulations, such as leaving potato salad in the heat for too long. If a camp chooses to ignore an obviously sick child or fails to take other steps to prevent the spread of disease, they may be subject to liability if your son develops a debilitating illness.
Even though illnesses are more prevalent that injuries, this does not mean injuries are not common. Some of the most common injuries are also the most preventable and include, but are not limited to, the following:
Many such injuries are preventable if children wear the right footwear and safety equipment for the activities for which they are engaged. It is important to maintain contact with your child’s summer camp regarding the activities being performed so that you can ensure you child is as protected as possible. It is also important that you be vigilant in understanding the adult to child ratio of the summer camp as well as the age make-up of the children attending. If the children are taking a trip to the beach and there is only one adult for every five children on a busy seashore, that will drastically increase your child’s chance of suffering from injury, getting lost, or even drowning. Do not agree to allow your child to attend potentially dangerous activities if you do not believe an employee will be able to have a clear view of your child at all times.
For some parents and guardians, you might recall signing a “waiver” of sorts that allows your children to engage in certain summer camp activities such as swimming, visiting amusement parks, and playing sports. It is a general principle of law in the United States that undertaking inherently physical activities, such as football, horseback riding, or swimming, carry necessary risks. For example, if your child goes out to play football, you are assuming the risk that he or she may suffer a concussion, and a summer camp may not be liable for that injury because it is inherent in the nature of the sport. This is called “assumption of risk.” Further, many camps may ask you to sign a waiver of liability for all camp activities. In certain instances, this may mean you waived your right to sue the summer camp for simple negligence stemming from certain summer camp activities. For example, if your child climbed a tree, fell down, and broke his arm because an employee ran to use the restroom, you may have waived liability for simple negligence.
However, you may still be able to sue for “gross negligence” or “recklessness” if the behavior of the summer camp was in violation of certain regulations that resulted in an injury to your child, such as hiring employees who are not background-checked. For example, if a camp counselor allowed an untrained 10-year-old child to ride an irritated horse without supervision and as a result, the child was thrown and suffered a traumatic brain injury, this might amount to gross negligence. There are also many liability waivers that may be legally unenforceable.
If you believe your child fell ill or suffered from injuries as the result of summer camp negligence, or suspect that your child’s summer camp is not adhering to Florida safety standards, contact the Dolman Law Group immediately. Their trained personal injury and child protection attorneys can help answer your questions and fight for you and your child’s right to compensation due to summer camp negligence. They are your premier personal injuries lawyers in the greater Tampa Bay area. Call them today at 727-451-6900 for a free, no-risk consultation about your child’s summer camp injuries.