Articles Posted in Child Safety

School House Blue Background.001In Florida, millions of children attend public school.  On most days, the worst thing that happens to a student is in the form of test or homework.  School is school.  However, when a child suffers an injury at school, there are many challenges in dealing with the aftermath of the injuries in the form of medical care, medical bills, pain, suffering, and the stress that is otherwise associated with the personal injuries.  There is a concept in Florida and other states called Sovereign Immunity.   From the literal reading of this term, one may assume that a government entity is immune from being sued or held responsible for the negligent acts of school employees.  The truth is that public schools can and do get sued for negligence when a child suffers personal injuries while under the care and supposed supervision of the school. While Florida Sovereign Immunity laws limit the amount of financial recovery and proscribe the manner, notice, and method for a government entity being sued, there is no immunity per se for negligent acts of school employees in the State of Florida.
The Supreme Court of Florida summarized the general law on point for school negligence cases and claims as follows:
A public school, at least through the high school level, undoubtedly owes a general duty of supervision to the students within its care.  Case law is replete with instances of schools, principals and teachers being required to reasonably fulfill their duty to supervise students.

 No Swimming.001During the past week, I have lectured and written on the issue of negligence, child injuries, and the unfortunate and tragic incident that took place at the Walt Disney World Resort – Orlando where a 2 year old child was attacked and ultimately drowned by an alligator.  It has been reported that there were “No Swimming” signs posted in or near the area.  Some people, who I have spoken to, believe that this fact should then be a bar to recovery if there is a claim or case pursued by the parents of the child who died.  Florida is a state that has adopted a Comparative Fault system for the pursuit and trial of personal injury cases.  In other words, even if an injury victim is comparatively or partially at fault, there can still be a case pursued on behalf of the injury victim and / or the injury victim’s family.   It should also be noted that there are some special laws in place in Florida when a child is injured.  For instance, in the State of Florida, a child under the age of 6 years old cannot be held liable, responsible, or partially at fault as a matter of law.  As such, a 2 year old cannot be comparatively at fault as a matter of law even though there were “No Swimming” signs that were posted.  However, a parent, as a third party of sorts, can be held liable, responsible, or partially at fault if the parent’s actions or inactions contributed in whole or part to the situation or incident taking place.
As for the Disney alligator attack, it has been reported that there were “No Swimming” signs posted.  The family of the 2 year old were from Nebraska and may not have been aware of the presence of alligators throughout the State of Florida in its rivers, lakes, canals, ponds, and lagoons.  Furthermore, the sign read “No Swimming”.   The reason for the posting of the sign could have included any of the following:
*There was no regular lifeguard in the area.

Swimming Pool - Drowning and Personal Injuries
In Florida, swimming, boating, and aquatic activities are essentially year round activities.  This is especially true during the spring and summer seasons.   According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 10 people die every day from drowning related incidents. Children under the age of 14 account for 2 out of the 10 deaths.  It is reported that drowning is the 5th leading cause of unintentional deaths in the United States.

Despite these risks and disturbing statistics, drowning incidents continue and unfortunately will continue through the rest of the 2016 year including the summer season.  Can a case or claim be pursued on behalf of an injured child OR on behalf of the parents of a child who dies as a result of a drowning incident?  Like many legal questions, it depends on the facts and circumstances.  It also depends on the practicalities associated with liability insurance coverage and other matters.
Like other personal injury cases in the State of Florida, there are four essential elements associated with a drowning case:

Scales of Jusice - Red White and BlueUnder Florida law, a parent may be liable for the bad acts whether they are negligent acts or intentional acts of a child.  However, it should be made clear that a parent is not automatically liable or responsible based on the parent – child relationship.  In the State of Florida, the case on point is Gissen v. Goodwill, 80 So.2d 701 (Supreme Court of Florida 1955).  In Gissen, the Supreme Court of Florida noted the circumstances in which a parent may be held liable for the bad acts of a child as follows:
1 – The parent entrusts an instrumentality to the child which because of the child’s age, judgment or experience may be a source of danger to others.  Examples of such an instrumentality may be a dirt motor bike, a lawnmower, a gun, etc. . .
2 – The child is acting as an agent or servant on behalf of the parent at the time that the tort is committed.

Kids Wooden Blocks Spelling Mom And Dad As Symbol for Parenthood

During the holiday season and all other times of year, it is important for parents, schools, and day care centers to be aware of the dangers that some toys cause to children.  If a child is injured by the use, play, or contact with a toy, the owner of the home, day care center, or school may be held liable if there was an issue with the supervision of the child, if the toy at issue was known to be dangerous, or if the toy was inappropriate for the age and maturity of the child.

Federal safety standards are put in place in an effort to reduce the risk of injuries to children from toys. Even with these standards in place, it is estimated that every three minutes a child is injured by a toy and makes a trip to the emergency room. This equates to approximately 250,000 children going to the emergency room in 2013 alone. In addition, the U.S. Consumer Protection Safety Commission estimated roughly nine children died in 2013 from toy related injuries.

With internet shopping becoming more prevalent, more and more parents are purchasing toys online. A problem with online shopping is that parents are unable to physically view the toys for safety issues and are often unable to read all of the warnings printed on the package. Without the ability to physically see the toy to locate unknown dangers or to read all warnings, parents may be purchasing toys that are not fit for the age and maturity of their child. A lack of knowledge regarding the safety of a toy can lead to serious injuries to children.

  School Bus Blue.001St. Johns County, there was a serious school bus accident that injured a number of children including one child who was airlifted and three children who were transported to Baptist South Medical Center located in Jacksonville, Florida.   This particular accident was reported as a single vehicle accident.  According to Action News and other media outlets, the driver, Joseph David Sanks, 69, of St. Augustine, was issued a citation for careless driving.  As Mr. Sanks was driving the yellow school bus on Interstate 95 near International Golf Parkway – he veered off the side of the road and into some trees.  There were no other vehicles damaged or reported involved with the crash.  Investigators from the Florida Highway Patrol interviewed witnesses and later issues a citation for Careless Driving to the school bus driver.  Does this mean that this is an open and shut case?  Not necessarily.  The Florida Highway Patrol does not control the outcome of the injury claims or potential civil cases that may arise from this accident.  Furthermore, while the school bus driver was charged with careless driving, he can contest the charges and request a hearing in traffic court with or without the benefit of legal representation.  Unless there was a mechanical failure or some other good explanation for the school bus driver crashing into a group of trees, it is highly unlikely that the school bus driver will prevail in traffic court.  Of course, the traffic court judge or hearing officer may decide to cut the school bus driver a break and withhold adjudication on the citation. It should be noted that the disposition of the traffic court hearing does not control the course of the potential civil cases or claims.  See Driver Charged in St. Johns County Florida School Bus Accident on Interstate 95.

Because of the complexities of Florida’s legal system especially as it pertains to liability, damages, and the intricate procedures by which a case or claim must be filed against a sovereign entity (government entity) like a school distrct, it is important for the parents of the injured children to retain the services of a qualified and experienced Florida Child Injury Lawyer for advice, guidance, and legal representation.

There may be several sources for the payment of medical bills and damages associated with a school bus accident including the following:

medical_1000006509-120613intDuring the summer time and other parts of the year in Florida, it is common to see children especially toddlers on bicycles and riding toys on or near driveways.   A good question is the following:
What riding toys are dangerous on or near driveways?
The answer to this question may surprise you.  The answer is all of the riding toys are dangerous.   This is because there are risks of personal injuries to any child on a riding toy or bicycle on or near the driveway.   Let’s say an example to discuss.  A 4 year old child is riding his three wheel cycle on the drivveway.  Like many such toys, this three wheeler is low to the ground and below the vision of most drivers.   While there are backup cameras in many newer model vehicles, a child riding a low three wheeler can often times be missed by a driver who is backing out of of driveway or driving into a driveway.   Also, children lack good safety judgment.   A 4 year old who is not being supervised can easily ride right into the street and into traffic.  This can, in turn, lead to serious personal injuries to the child.  Here are some safety tips to keep in mind:

Kids Block Spelling Dad As Symbol for Fatherhood And ParentingOne basic duty of every day care center is to supervise the children to make sure that the children do not wander out of the facility and into harm’s way.  The fact is that most day care centers are located on or near a busy road or expressway.   The busy roads are dangerous.  The parking lots are also dangerous to children especially toddlers who have very poor safety awareness.  Keeping a child safe should be a priority for every day care center.  Unfortunately, some day care centers are not so diligent with the supervision of the children.  Doors are left open, facilities are not kept in good repair, and most importantly supervision is lax.  Many day care centers put profits or income over the safety and supervision of the children.  Many hire low paying personnel with little or no training.  Furthermore, many such day care center workers are not motivated to put in a hard day’s work and do as little as possible just to get through the day and to the next paycheck. Of course, there are many hard working child care providers out there who work diligently to keep children safe and well supervised during the day.
When a child wanders out of a day care facility, the consequences can be disastrous and even deadly.  What if a chid wanders away from a day care center?  Can the center be sued?  These are common but excellent questions. There are four basic elements to bring forth a legal case or lawsuit against a day care center.
1. Duty;

Very High Scorching Temperature Shown On A Big Thermostat

Hot Cars – Risks to Children

In Florida and other states, the heat during the summer months as well as other times of the year present a constant danger to children being transported by day care centers, summer camp, schools, parents, relatives, and friends.  It is vital that children are removed from a vehicle when the destination is reached.  A quick run in to the dry cleaners, school, convenience store, and other locations can result in serious personal injuries and even death to a child left behind.   For this article, the focus is heat related complications and illnesses; however, a child, who is left alone, in a vehicle can choke on small object, get his or her head caught in a power windows, become entangled or even strangulated by a seat belt, mobile phone wire, or other object, and otherwise get injured or harmed in other ways.  It is important that all hazards are removed form the vehicle and that a child is never – ever left unattended in a vehicle.   The safety of the child should always take priority over the convenience of the driver or adult supervisors.   In this day and age, we just have too many distractions in place that take our attention away from what is the most important job at hand – the proper supervision of children.   Here are some tips to keep in mind and use when transporting children.  Following these and other safety measures can save a child from the harm or injury associated with heat exposure.

*Never ever leave a child unattended in a vehicle;

Bicycle - Child InjuryIn Florida as well as other states, it is still common to read about children being injured in bicycle accidents with motor vehicles.  Let’s face it – a bicycle is no match for a vehicle of any size.  When a child is hit while riding a bicycle, tricycle, or riding toy, there can be significant personal injuries and, in some instances, the tragic death of a child.  It is important for drivers of all ages to slow down any time that there are children in the area whether they are pedestrians or bicycle riders.  It should also be noted that children have poor safety awareness.  As such, a driver should be on the alert for any sudden or unsafe actions by the children in the area.
When a child is injured as a result of the negligence or carelessness of a driver, there are many issues and challenges faced by the parents and the injured child.   Who is going to pay for the medical bills? Is a parent’s wage loss a covered expense under insurance policies? Where can the child get follow up care and treatment if there is no health insurance or Medicaid?  What insurance is required for the at-fault driver?  What insurance is required for the at-fault vehicle owner?  When can a child get the compensation he or she deserved for the accident related personal injuries?   Are there any restrictions when dealing with the settlement on behalf of a minor child?  These are just a few questions of many that arise in these situations.  Because of the complexity of these cases and the importance of acting in the best interests of the injured child, a parent should seek out legal representation from a Florida Child Injury Lawyer  for advice, guidance, and, yes, legal representation.
A crash or accident can take place at any time of the day and at any location.   A child could get run over or hit in a driveway, near a park, and even while just casually walking on or riding on a sidewalk.   In Florida, there is a concept called the Dangerous Instrumentality Law.  This means that the owner of a vehicle is liable for the injuries caused by an automobile / bicycle accident if the owner consented to the driver’s use of the vehicle. There can be implied consent and there can be express consent.