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As parents, we do our best to protect and care for our children. In the modern day era, it is impossible and impractical to watch over a child on a 24 / 7 basis. Children are at risk for abduction any time that they are in a public place. A parent can put one safety measure in place that may ultimately prevent an abduction. It is called a code word. It is a unique word or phrase that only the parents and select people know. As such, if a child is approached by an adult who the child does not know, the child can ask the adult for the code word. If the adult does not know the code word, this can be a warning sign that the adult has no ties to the child. At times, a bona fide emergency can occur in which the person does not know the code word. However, for others, it is just a stranger intending to do harm and abduct a child.

A situation in Arizona exemplifies the efficacy of code words. Reports indicate that a forty-year-old man in a white SUV approached an eleven-year-old girl to tell her that she needed to leave the park and come with him because her parents had been in a serious accident. The young girl refused to go with him due to his lack of knowledge of her family’s safe word. The man drove off immediately without abducting the girl.

Occurrences of this nature demonstrate the great importance of parents teaching their children precautions to prevent kidnappings. As evidenced in Arizona, code words remain an effective tool for ensuring the safety of children. Kids Health, a division of a children’s hospital, recommends additional safety precaution to teach children, including: never accept candy from strangers, never go anywhere with a stranger even if they promise something fun, say no if anyone ever asks them to do something they think is wrong, how to call 911, and emergency procedures in case they ever get lost or feel unsafe. See Kids Health – Abductions.

Video-Surveillance-150x150A valuable tool that can both help monitor the care of children and punish nannies, babysitters, and other child care providers when there is neglect and abuse is the nanny cam. Certainly, it would be a perfect world if every child care provider was trained, patient, and perfectly attentive to the child. Unfortunately, many nannies and child care providers take out their anger and frustration on an innocent child. Babies by their nature will cry and be fussy. That just goes with the territory of watching over a child. When a baby cries, it is never ever appropriate or proper to shake the child. One shaking incident can lead to a lifelong medical problems for the child and even the wrongful death of a child. When these types of acts are caught on video through a hidden nanny cam, the video would be a strong piece of evidence to convict the wrongdoer and also to deter others from engaging in such dangerous and callous acts.

An incident that took place in Jacksonville, Florida exemplifies the unfortunate reality of parents uncovering abuse to their children by hired childcare providers through footage from a nanny cam. It was reported that a mother discovered her nanny aggressively shaking her two-year-old son after watching a video she recorded from a camera hidden inside her son’s lunchbox. Unfortunately, Florida’s two-party consent laws prevent this mother from using the recording she obtained from her nanny cam in court because hidden camera footage does not have the consent of both the recorder and the person being recorded. Though the mother in this case from Jacksonville is trying to convince the legislature to alter the law so that nanny cam footage may be used in court, she currently cannot use the footage she obtained of her nanny abusing her toddler.

Though hidden camera recordings like the one obtained by the Jacksonville mother are not admissible in Florida courts, some types of nanny cam footage may be. Florida Statute Section 934.03 is the law that prevents individuals from recording audio without the consent of both parties. Because it only precludes the use of oral communication recordings, nanny cams that only take videos without audio recordings could be admissible as well as nanny cams that only capture photos without any video or audio components. Additionally, a parent may be able to use audio and visual footage obtained from a nanny cam in court if they obtain informed, written consent from the nanny to record him or her on video cameras within the home or other areas under surveillance prior to the abuse proceedings arising. Nonetheless, parents should still consult an experienced attorney for advice pertaining to their specific situation before installing a nanny cam. In the tragic event that a nanny or childcare provider does abuse one’s child, the parent should consult with an Experienced Child Injury attorney about the potential cause of action that may be brought on behalf of the child because the family may be entitled to a damages award for the injuries the child sustained.

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In Jacksonville, Florida and other cites, swimming parties are quite common.  However, not every swimming party goes through the formality of assigning a “Lifeguard” and “Water Watchers”.  This does not mean that every swimming party should have a trained and certified Lifeguard; however, it would be ideal to have a trained Lifeguard is one is available.  For purposes of this article, let’s designate the Lifeguard as the manager of the water watchers or the person who makes sure that there are adult supervisors / water watchers in place at all times during the party. This can also include times in which no children are in the pool IF the children have access to the pool.  With far too many parties, there are many adults present but nobody is watching the water.  The adults are engaged in conversation and otherwise staring at their phones and tablets.  Just because an adult is close in proximity to a swimming pool – it does not mean that the adult is paying attention.

It is best if the host of the party designates a Lifeguard and Water Watchers.  It may be helpful to have a sign up sheet and times set up for the Lifeguard and the Water Watchers.  The simple act of setting up the sign up sheet and then having the right people in place to serve as a Lifeguard and Water Watchers can save a life of a child and otherwise make the activity of swimming that much safer for the children.

Jacksonville, Florida had 6 drowning deaths to date.  Certainly, it is a terrible headline for the community and a worse one for the families who have suffered the loss of a child due to a drowning incident.  If a child dies from a drowning event or incident that could have been prevented by the acts of other persons, parties, business entities, or government entities, then an insurance claim or lawsuit may be pursued on behalf of the parents of the child.  This is called a Wrongful Death case which is governed in part by Chapter 768. Florida Statutes.  The most recent child to die as a result of a drowning incident was reported as Nyziah Clark who was attending a pool party with classmates at a pool for a gated townhome community.  See 6th Drowning Death Reported in Jacksonville, Florida.

wrongful_death_book-150x150In Jacksonville, Florida and other cities throughout the State of Florida, a car crash is just about something you see every day. With the growth of the State and more and more vehicles on the road, car crashes are a common occurrence.  Tragically, some of these car accidents result in the untimely and tragic death of a  child.  As passengers of a vehicle, children are almost never at fault for the crash taking place.  Certainly, the death of a child has a ripple effect through the parents, family, neighborhood, school and community.  Having attending a number of funerals involving a child, it is clear that no words or compensation for that matter can console a parent or family member who has lost a child due to the negligence driving of another person.
In Jacksonville, Florida, the Florida Highway Patrol reported a recent accident that tragically led to the death of two children and personal injuries of two other children.  It was reported that Symere Woolbright – age 5 – and Rickale Woolbright – age 10 – died as a result of this rear end crash.   See Children Killed in Jacksonville, Florida Crash – 2 Killed and 2 Injured
While some accidents may seem cut and dry as to fault or liability, there are a number of challenges and issues that go with the pursuit of a Florida Wrongful Death case on behalf of the parents of a child who dies as a result of a motor vehicle accident.  It is important to determine all applicable insurance policies that may provide coverage for the damages / losses as a result of the automobile accident.  Insurance companies do not always act in the best interest of the family of a deceased child.  The insurance company has a duty to act reasonably and timely.  If the insurance company fails to do so, the applicable insurance policy limits may be expanded to what is called extra-contractual compensation. It means that the insurance company may ultimately be pressured to pay out more than the applicable policy limits but only if it can be shown that the insurance company failed to act timely and reasonably.  To prove such conduct, documentation is vital.

Swimming-Pool-Liability-150x150Throughout the year, Florida has the distinction of being a state in which warm weather allows for swimming even through the Fall and Winter months. When a child dies as a result of a drowning incident, the death of a child has a ripple effect through the family and community.  According to statistics collated the Florida Department of Children and Families, 82 drowned in 2017 with another 56 who have drowned in 2018 as of this time. Children and adults, who happened to be strong swimmers, can still encounter trouble while swimming.  As such, it is important to have supervision and assistance nearby any time that a child or adult enters a pool. This is especially true for young children, toddlers, and infants who may lack these strong swimming skills or safety awareness.
We live in a world of constant and ongoing distractions in the form of our smart phones and tablets. In a way, our smart phones are making us a bit dumber and less aware of our surroundings. This often is the case when an adult is supposedly supervising a child.  With eyes fixated on the small screen of an iPhone or iPad, a small child may encounter trouble or danger in the form of any body of water including swimming pools, lakes, oceans, rivers, hot tubs, and even bath tubs.
A swimming pool related legal action requires the showing of four elements as follows:

Water-Safety-150x150Florida is a state that allows for swimming virtually year round.  There are swimming pools in just about every neighborhood from small backyard pools to community swimming pools.  While swimming is a great activity for children, it also poses a real risk for children, especially toddlers and smaller children who lack strong swimming, survival skills, and judgment.  Certainly, a child is at risk when there is no adult supervision in the area of the water way / swimming pool.  Even when adults are present, there are also risks to children if their the “supervision” is distracted by conversation, mobile phone use, a television, or just simple inattention.  When a child dies or is seriously injured from a drowning incident, there is a ripple effect through the family and the community.

A recent event that occurred in Jacksonville, Florida exemplifies this. According to a news report, a toddler  drowned in a backyard pool when family members briefly lost track of him. Events like these occur all too frequently. According to the Center for Disease Control, an average of over 700 children under age fourteen die annually from drowning. The Center for Disease Control also indicates that, for every child that dies from drowning, five others go to the hospital for almost drowning. Unfortunately, Florida leads the nation in number of child deaths from drowning in 2017, as revealed by the Miami Herald. Thus, staying vigilant with children around water is especially pertinent in Florida.  See Water Injuries – Fact Sheet- Center for Disease Control. 

Most drowning and near drowning incidents are completely preventable.  Water safety / swimming precautions can include: installation of fencing around water, designation of an adult to provide constant supervision of children in water or around water, pool alarm systems for doors leading out to water access, adornment of lifejackets when children play near or in the water, and swim lessons at a young age. CPR training may also save a child’s life in the event that a child drowns.

Handgun-150x150Unfortunately and tragically, communities across the State of Florida and the nation continue to grapple with the challenges and aftermath of mass shootings.  A mass shooting took place at the Jacksonville Landing.  The Jacksonville Landing is well known to local residents, visitors, and the attendees of the annual University of Florida / University of Georgia Football Game. The Jacksonville Landing sits on the waterfront and has been the central focal point for festivals, concerts, political rallies, and other events.  Now, the Jacksonville Landing will now be known and associated with a mass shooting that took place

The Jacksonville Landing was the host of the Madden 19 Video Game Tournament.  It was reported that three people died including the shooter and nine people were injured in the shooting.  David Katz, age 24, was reported as the shooter by USA Today and other media outlets.  His gun was described as a large caliber handgun with a laser sight attachment.

The attendees and guests at this event were simply gathering together to play video games.  Unlike Call to Duty and other games, there are not even any guns or weapons in Madden Football.  Regardless, innocent people were killed and injured as a result of the careless and senseless acts of the gunman.

Amusement-Park-Ride-150x150In the State of Florida and other States, amusement parks and theme parks provide fun and excitement in the form of roller coaster rides, carousel rides, ferris wheel rides, and rides.  Some amusement park rides go quite slow and involve little force, friction, or height.  However, any mechanical ride can pose a threat to riders if there is a malfunction, design defect, or operation error.  This is especially the case with roller coasters that involve great heights, sharp turns, and twists and turns at high speeds.  A recent incident that took place in Daytona Beach, Florida at the Daytona Beach Boardwalk.  It was reported that two riders fell from the Sand Blaster Roller Coaster ride.  There were a total of nine riders injured as a result of the incident.  For more information regarding this incident, see Roller Coast Ride Accident – Daytona Beach – Personal Injuries and History of Ride Inspections by the State of Florida

With most legal cases involving a personal injury, there are four elements of the case to establish as follows:

1 – Duty;

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There is a common danger in homes, day care centers, schools, and other facilities.  The common danger is in the form of window blinds.  There are injury risks associated with window blind cords including those related to bruises, cuts, scrapes, and most significantly strangulation.  While it is well known and widely reported that window blind cords represent a significant risk to small children, reports of injuries continue to take place because safety precautions were not taken by the applicable child care provider.

It is estimated that approximately 17,000 children under the age of six years old were admitted to a hospital between the time period of 1990 and 2015 due to window blind related personal injuries.  The same report estimated that one child per month died as a result of window blind cord strangulation during this time period.  Toddlers and small children have poor safety awareness.  As such, what appears to be fun to a toddler can actually pose a significant danger.  The report on window blind injuries gathered together data from emergency rooms.  As such, there are most likely more injuries that took place than were part of this study.

While there have been proposals and recommendations by the United States Product Safety Commission as to standards to make cords covered and / or unreachable by children, these recommendations have not been approved or placed into law as of yet.

City-Park-Liability-150x150In the State of Florida, many people are under the mistaken belief that a government entity is immune from civil liability when there is a personal injury or wrongful death that takes place on property maintained, controlled, and / or owned by a government entity.   If a government entity or an agent / employee of a government entity is negligent or careless, a civil case or claim can be brought against the government entity to seek compensation for the personal injuries, wrongful death, and related damages.  It should be noted that civil cases or claims against a government entity in the State of Florida are handled or treated differently than cases against private individuals, privately owned businesses, and publicly held businesses or corporations like Wal-Mart, Disney World, and other entities.

When an adult or child is injured as a result of the negligence of a government entity, the rules, policies, notices, and restrictions set forth in Section 728.28, Florida Statutes apply.   This statute is known as the “Sovereign Immunity” statute.  The name is a bit misleading. The word “Sovereign” refers to a government entity.  The word “Immunity” typically refers to a shield against liability or responsibility.  As such, the term “Sovereign Immunity” is a bit misleading.  The truth is that a government entity in the State of Florida can and should be held legally liable and financially responsible for injuries that result from careless or negligent acts.  The statute does restrict the amount that can be recovered to $200,000 per incident or $300,000 per incident.  An injury victim or the family of the injury victim can collect more than the amount limited by statute but only by the passage of a Claims Bill before the Florida legislature and ultimately signed off by the Governor.  Claims Bills are very difficult to pursue and get passed.  As such, the majority of claims against government entities in the State of Florida result in compensation at or below the caps as set forth in the Florida Statute on point.

In Jacksonville, Florida, it was reported that a 3 year old boy – Amari Harley – died as a result of a drowning in a septic tank area as part of a City of Jacksonville park – Bruce Park.  The medical technical cause of death was reported as asphyxia due to inhaling septic tank contents.  While there have been a number of news reports on the tragic death of this young child, there have been no reports as to how this small child was able to get into or fall into the septic tank area.  City officials and other landowners should be well aware of the presence of children in a park area and the dangers of septic tank areas like the ones present at Bruce Park.