Most of us think about Florida as a haven for snowbirds and retirees. While Florida’s population of those over the age of 65 is slightly higher than the average of the United States, the most recently available data from the U.S. Census Bureau indicates that just over five percent of all Florida residents are under the age of five. What this means is that many parents have to worry about securing daycare for their children while they work or attend school. Deciding who will care for your children is challenging. You want the best possible provider who will care for your child in your absence and keep them safe. We all understand children fall and suffer bruises, scrapes, and cuts are common injuries. Unfortunately, these are not the only types of injury in childcare settings, nor are they the most serious. When this happens you need an experienced personal injury attorney.
Childcare Regulations in Florida
The Florida Department of Children & Families has very strict guidelines pertaining to caregivers and childcare facilities that operate across the state. They oversee setting guidelines for:
- Licensed childcare facilities
- Licensed family childcare homes
- Licensed large family childcare homes
- Licensed specialized childcare facilities for the care of mildly ill children
- Registered family day care homes
Regulations that must be followed include a specific number of providers per the number of children, the age of the caregivers, and what safety equipment must be on hand in the facility. These regulations are designed to keep your child safe while they are being cared for by someone other than a family member.
Childcare Facilities and Unintentional Injury
Most accidents that occur in childcare settings are unintentional. A child can get small fingers and hands stuck in open drawers or doors that can lead to a minor fracture. Children playing outside on playground equipment can suffer a burn, scrapes and bumps, or a broken bone due to falling from a piece of equipment. The leading cause of injuries in children is playground-related accidents. While data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is dated, there is clearly a correlation between playground usage and injuries in children under the age of 18. Statistics show that annually, there are more than 200,000 children under the age of 14 injured on playgrounds. Playground injuries can include relatively minor injuries like cuts and bruises, but unfortunately, can also be more severe. Severe injuries in playgrounds include skull fractures and strangulation. The CDC report shows some interesting data parents should not ignore, including:
- Boys are more at risk than girls for suffering a playground injury
- Children between 5 and 9 visit emergency rooms for a playground injury more than other age groups
- Boys are more likely to suffer a traumatic brain injury than girls after a playground accident
- Children under the age of four often suffer injuries on slides and swings in playgrounds
Regardless of how carefully a caregiver is watching a child, accidents can happen. While playground accidents are among the most common, injuries suffered during a fall may be the leading cause of injuries in children.
Children in Childcare Settings and Falls
Another CDC report contained more disturbing information about children’s injuries. This report shows infants and children up to age nine suffer a staggering number of falls that results in injuries. This report shows more than 1.3 million children in the United States were treated in emergency rooms during 2017 for unintentional falls. While this report does not specify which of these injuries may have occurred in a childcare setting versus another setting, the information is still concerning.
Additional Injuries Suffered by Children in Childcare Settings
This report also goes further than showing only the leading cause of emergency room visits; instead, it breaks out the leading ten causes, which include:
- Struck by or against an object
- Bites and stings
- Foreign body (slivers, etc.)
- Bicycling injuries
- Cuts and bruising
We all understand children can be difficult to supervise, particularly in a childcare setting where there may be several children in different age groups. Childcare providers nonetheless have an obligation to parents to carefully monitor children to keep them safe from harm.
Negligence in Childcare Settings
Parents at home monitor their children’s activities very closely to protect them from injury. A child learning to walk is unsteady on their feet. Parents typically will pay close attention to hazards in the home that can result in an injury. However, most parents have very little say over the furnishings, toys, or other objects in a childcare setting. While childcare facilities are inspected in Florida, the facility or home may purchase new equipment, furniture, or toys between inspections. In these cases, it is incumbent upon the childcare provider to ensure the items purchased are appropriate for children in their care. When they fail to do so, they may be responsible for any injury a child suffers from the appropriate use, or accidental use of the item. A childcare provider may demonstrate negligence in other ways—for example, insufficient staff because of sick calls, improperly anchored furnishings that could tip over should a child reach for something, or leaving unsupervised children near a hot stove. In these cases, a child could suffer a serious injury, and the childcare provider would likely face liability.
Childcare Liability Waivers
Parents are often asked to sign a waiver of liability when they agree to trust their child’s care to a childcare facility. These waivers are designed to offer some protection for the person or entity who is requesting the document. While it is common practice to ask for these waivers in childcare settings, it does not prohibit a parent from taking legal action should they determine the childcare provider acted negligently. Keep in mind, while a liability waiver may protect a childcare provider if a building is struck by lightning causing your child to be injured, it does not protect the provider from liability if they acted negligently. Negligence is a necessary element of any personal injury lawsuit.
Understanding Negligence in Childcare Settings
Most of us understand negligent behavior can result in injuries to others. Establishing negligence requires that we be able to point to someone’s actions being the cause of an injury. However, inaction can also be considered negligent. To establish negligence, one must be able to demonstrate that the inaction or action of a person was unreasonable for the given circumstances. In a childcare setting, this can include having insufficient staff members for the number of children being cared for, leaving prescription or non-prescription drugs within easy reach of the children being cared for, or allowing children to act aggressively towards other children in the care of the facility. Negligent supervision is the most common reason for a child suffering an injury in a childcare setting. Since establishing negligence is a requirement when considering a personal injury lawsuit, parents must understand several issues. If your child is injured in a childcare setting, there are several steps you should take, including:
- Seeking immediate medical attention – You should have your child examined by a medical professional to establish the extent and severity of an injury. This is a priority because your child’s safety and health are the most important concerns.
- Request an incident report – Florida providers of childcare services are required to file reports should an accident occur while your child is in their care. You should ask for a copy of the report that has been filed to determine how the accident occurred, who was supervising the children at the time, and when the incident occurred, particularly if you do not learn about it until it is time to pick your child up from the facility.
- Ask a personal injury attorney for help – If you believe your child suffered an injury that could have been avoided had there been sufficient oversight of their activities, you may want to consider asking a personal injury attorney to review the circumstances on your behalf.
Holding Childcare Providers Accountable
Some parents may feel that seeking the help of a personal injury lawyer when their child is injured while in someone’s care is inappropriate. While parents should file a complaint if they believe their child’s injuries could have been the result of negligence, you should also first establish whether you have the basis for a civil suit against the provider. Filing a lawsuit does not mean you are capitalizing on your child’s injury. If the state refuses to take action or if the facility blows off your complaint, a lawsuit can ensure that the daycare makes changes needed to ensure more children don’t suffer the same injuries. Moreover, chances are your child’s injury caused financial harm to your family. If your child’s injuries are serious enough they cannot be cared for in the same facility, then you may have to lose time from work to provide them with care. Additionally, you may also face mounting medical bills while your child recovers from their injury. When a child suffers burns or other injuries that cause scarring, they will have to live with the disfiguration for the rest of their lives or may have to undergo plastic surgery to repair the damage. Your insurance may not cover these procedures, which means unanticipated out of pocket costs. Should a child suffer a concussion or other traumatic brain injury while in a childcare setting, your child may require long-term care, rehabilitation, or face life-long problems as a result of the injury they suffered. While these types of injuries are less common, they do occur. Therefore, it may be worth your time to consult with an attorney to determine what options are available to you to ensure your child’s immediate and long-term needs are met after they suffer an injury.
Compensation for Childcare Setting Injuries
While your primary concern is the health and well-being of your children, you should not face the additional financial burden of paying for expenses associated with required hospitalization, medical care, nursing care, or other treatment. You may also be able to file a claim against the provider on behalf of your child for bodily injury, impairment, disfigurement, or aggravation of an existing illness or injury. Children cannot protect themselves in most cases, either because they are unaware of the danger or because they did not have adequate time to respond to danger. As parents, we often depend on others to care for our children while we work, attend school, or take care of chores and errands. Childcare services including daycare, preschool, and after school care programs are a necessity for many families. We expect the people who are employed in these facilities to have proper training, but we also expect them to care for our children and keep them safe in our absence.
When Your Child Suffers an Injury in Childcare
If you are one of the thousands of parents whose child was injured while in childcare, you and your child have rights. Contacting a personal injury lawyer for a free consultation regarding your child’s injuries is the first step in ensuring you understand these rights. A consultation does not obligate you to take any action, but it does allow you to understand what options are available to you and your child. Deciding to have someone you do not know care for your child so you can work is difficult, and finding the right childcare environment is challenging. Parents often feel guilty when their child is injured in someone’s care, because they feel they should have been aware of the dangers. This is not always the case. If your child suffered an injury while in a childcare setting, and you have questions or concerns about the care they received, you should reach out to a lawyer who has experience handling these types of cases to get answers to those questions and address your concerns. It is helpful to know your options. It is also critically important, not just for your child, but for other children, to bring awareness to dangerous conditions that may exist in a childcare facility. Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA 800 North Belcher Road Clearwater, FL 33765 (727) 451-6900 https://www.dolmanlaw.com/florida-personal-injury-lawyer/