Back to School: Back To Injuries
By now most parents have heard about the danger of concussions in sports like football and hockey. But parents trying to keep their children safe from head injuries need to be concerned with more than contact sports. A new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study found around 21,000 kids aged 14 and younger suffer traumatic brain injuries including concussions on playgrounds every year.
Researchers looked at playground injuries to kids 14 and under who were treated in the emergency room. From ages 5 to 9, most of the injuries were to young boys. Concussions accounted for 10-percent of the injuries.
The study also found that the rate of concussions was rising among children, from 23 out of 100,000 in 2005 to 48 out of 100,000 in 2013. While the CDC isn’t sure what’s causing the rise in traumatic brain injuries, it is recommending “improved adult supervision, methods to reduce child risk behavior, regular equipment maintenance, and improvements in playground surfaces and environments.”
Researchers also suggest using soft ground surfaces such as wood chips and sand rather than concrete. Adult supervision is also key to help prevent injuries. Age appropriate playground equipment that is in good condition is also helpful.
The two pieces of playground equipment most commonly associated with concussions were swing sets and the monkey bars. Considering that even properly constructed playground equipment can be dangerous, poorly designed, assembled, or maintained equipment can increase the injury risk for children.
Playground equipment manufacturers have a duty to ensure their products are safe to play on, and companies can be strictly liable if a person is injured by their product. A piece of playground equipment could be improperly designed, poorly manufactured, or lack proper warnings, leading to dangerous or deadly accidents. The CDC study recommended that playgrounds use soft ground surfaces like wood chips or sand, rather than concrete.
Location, Location, Location
Where a playground is located may also affect legal liability for injuries. If the playground is on school property or in a city park, you could have a premises liability claim against the school or municipality. But suing a government entity is can be more complicated and may require filing a notice of claim first, so that the school or city is on notice that an injury has occurred. (This gives the government entity an opportunity to accept and pay the claim before going to court.) If your claim is ignored or denied, you can then sue the entity in court.
If your child has suffered a concussion or traumatic brain injury on a playground, you should talk to an experienced personal injury lawyer. Joe Zarzaur is an award winning Pensacola personal injury lawyer specializing in premises liability and personal injury.
Playground Accidents & Injury Liability
Playground injuries can occur at public schools, private schools, daycares, city parks, and private homes. Most of these injuries are caused by unsafe behavior by children or by unsafe equipment. If your child was seriously injured while playing on a playground, you may want to learn more about the legal concepts of premises liability and negligent supervision of children, which might be utilized in a claim for injury compensation.
Schools and other operators of playgrounds have a duty to protect children from foreseeable dangers on the premises. To bring a suit to recover for a playground injury based on a premises liability theory, you must show that:
- the defendant was in charge of the property
- the injured child was the type of person that the defendant could expect to be on the property
- the defendant did not exercise the proper amount of care
- the child was injured in a foreseeable way, and
- the defendant’s carelessness was a major cause of the child’s injury.
For example, in a case where a child is injured on a school playground by a sharp crack in a metal slide, the school has authority over the playground area. The school expects students to play on the school playground equipment. To make the playground reasonably safe, the school has a duty to regularly inspect the playground equipment and repair any problems. If the school in question never inspected the playground equipment, the school failed to exercise a reasonable amount of care. It would not be surprising that the equipment had deteriorated in a dangerous way over a period of years. Injury due to decaying playground equipment is a foreseeable harm. The school’s failure to discover and fix the problem with the slide would be the major cause of the child’s injury.
With facts such as these, the elements of a premises liability case would be met, and the school or owner/operator of the playground could be deemed negligent.
Negligent Supervision of Children
When someone accepts the responsibility of watching your child, that person could be liable for harm that comes to your child because of a lack of supervision. School teachers and staff have a heightened duty of care toward your child because they are acting in loco parentis, which is Latin for “in the place of parents,” at school. They must take reasonable steps to prevent foreseeable harm to students. The school must have an effective system of supervision in place to keep students safe. Other organizations and individuals that agree to watch your children also have a duty to act with reasonable care to avoid injury to your children.
To sue for negligent supervision, you need to show that:
- the defendant agreed to supervise your child
- the defendant did not properly monitor your child, and
- your child was hurt because of the inattentiveness of the defendant.
One example of this type of claim is where children at school are let out to play at recess without any supervision and a fight erupts. If the fight escalates and a child is pushed off a climber and breaks an arm, the school could be sued for negligent supervision of the children. The school has the responsibility of monitoring the students. If a staff member had supervised recess and stopped the fight, this incident likely would not have occurred.