Articles Posted in Homeowner’s Insurance / Injuries at a Home

Swimming-Pool-Safety-150x150During the spring and summer months, there is an increase in the number of reported drownings and near drownings throughout the United States.  For many warm weather States like California, Texas, and Florida, there are risks of drowning just about year round due to the climate and the abundance of swimming pools, water parks, canals, rivers, and other water ways. Tragically, Texas holds the distinction for being the number one State for child pool drownings.  Children can be especially at risk for drowning when there is a lack of adult supervision.  Certainly, adult supervision should be provided any time that a child is in or near a swimming pool or other accessible swimming area or water way.
While it is difficult to believe or understand, many child drownings and near drownings take place when there are a number of adults in or near the swimming pool area.  How can this happen? How can a child drown with adults just feet away from the swimming pool area?  A drowning can take place in a swimming pool when the adults in the area are otherwise occupied in the acts of talking, eating, drinking, sleeping, surfing (the internet), texting, web browsing, watching a sporting event, or simply talking on a mobile phone.  The presence of adults in or near a swimming pool area is not the same as watchful and attention adult supervision.  As such, it is important to make sure that adult supervision is in place any time that a child is in or near a swimming pool.
Certainly, if a school, summer camp, or day care center is in session and swimming is a current activity – there should be designated and trained staff members in place to watch over the children and to place safety above all other concerns and distractions.  A swimming pool or swimming area is not a good place for multi-tasking.  As such, a person should not have a mobile device in hand and in use while assigned or engaged in the act of supervising children in or near a swimming pool area.

Florida Pool.001In Florida, it is common to see swimming pools in most neighborhood.  It is somewhat of a luxury to have a swimming pool right there in the back yard.  Swimming pools can add to the aesthetics of the house and surrounding.  Swimming pools can also provide for a great deal of fun and relaxation for adults and children alike.  Unfortunate and tragically, swimming pools are also the site of horrible tragedies that despite laws, common sense, and the general knowledge of other similar tragedies continue to take place.  It has been reported that Florida leads the nations in drowning for children under the age of 5 years old.  Florida has ranked second in drownings the age group of 1 to 14 years old.  Florida’s weather allows for swimming almost year round.  During Spring and Summer months, it is tragically predictable that additional drownings of small children will take place.
Florida has adopted a swimming pool act that applies to all homeowners with a swimming pool.  There must be a barrier that is at least 4 feet high on the outside.  There should not be any gaps, openings, or structural components that would allow a child to crawl or squeeze through the barrier or enclosure.  You can read more about these regulations at Section 515.29, Florida Statutes – Residential Swimming Pool Barrier Requirements.
Can a homeowner be held liable or responsible with a child neighbor or child visitor drowns in the swimming pool in Florida?  The answer to this question like most legal question is “It depends.”  If the homeowner failed to follow the Florida Residential Swimming Pool Act and these violations were the proximate cause of the drowning – then the homeowner may be held liable or responsible for the drowning.

mle_1935a-022614-calGun ownership is protected by the Second Amendment.  Certainly, there is a strong history and constitutional right to gun ownership in Florida and the United States.  With this right, there are also the responsibility of sensible and reasonable ownership and safety especially when children are present in a home or a location where guns are owned, maintained, and stored.   A homeowner / gun owner can be held liable for leaving a gun in a place or location that is accessible to a young child.   It is well known that children especially toddlers, preschoolers, and elementary school children are curious and do not always recognize the danger of touching or handling a gun.  Civil or legal responsibility for injuries or the death of a young child does not in any way abrogate or curtail gun ownership or rights.  Like driving an automobile or running an amusement park right, there must be responsible maintenance and operation surrounding the potentially dangerous activity.

An Arkansas woman was recently charged after her six year old nephew shot and killed himself with a gun she owned. The young boy was waiting in a car while the woman was in a nearby residence. The accidental death lead to the woman being charged with manslaughter. She was charged criminally because she was  alleged to be negligent or careless for keeping the gun in a place accessible to the young boy. With such a tragic event, this particular incident and others are wake up calls for all gun owners and homeowners to be responsible any time that guns and children are present in the same location.

Gun related injuries can happen to a child of any age. In fact, toddlers, aged two or three, are strong enough to pull the trigger of a loaded gun. Often, these toddlers are too young to understand what a gun is and the danger that it poses. Coupled with the fact that one in three children live in a home with a gun, this is all the more reason to practice proper gun safety.

First Aid Kit - Child InjuryOver the summer and other times of year, children can spend hours of time enjoying the fun and activity in a bounce house.   It should be noted that with any bounce house activity or similar activity – a child could suffer injuries through no fault of the property owner, management company, or owner / renter of the bounce house.  Injuries happen; however, it should also be noted that many bounce house related activities result from a lack of proper set up and / or a lack of proper adult supervision. Let’s discuss an example.  Let’s say a homeowner rents a bounce house.  The homeowner’s four year old and his friend (also 4 years old) are playing in the bounce house.  The homeowner decides to leave the children alone to cook a meal and check on some e-mails.  While the boys are outside in the bounce house, another child, who is 12 years old and much larger than the other children, visits the home and bounces in the bounce house with the 4 year old boys.   The 12 year old is doing a back flip and lands on the 4 year old child who was visiting the home.   The boy suffers a fractured leg and is treated at a local emergency room and later by an orthopedic surgeon.   Under this general fact scenario, there would be a case or claim to pursue against the homeowner for failure to supervise the children.  Had the homeowner been properly supervising the bounce house area, the 12 year old would be been kept out of the bounce house until the 4 year old boys needed a break and then the 12 year old boy – who had visited the home on many occasions and was a friend of the family – could have safely used the bounce house on his owner.   Like other personal injury cases, there are essentially four elements to establish a claim or case against a homeowner for negligence:
1. Duty;
 
2. Breach of Duty;

106-1113tm-vector2-2936Trampolines can provide hours of enjoyment and exercise to children.  Unfortunate, a trampoline can also be the site or location of a serious personal injury to a child.   There are three major reasons why children are injured while playing on a trampoline:
1.  Improper Maintenance / Repair of the Trampoline.
There are far too many homeowners, summer camps, schools, and day care centers with trampolines that are older and / or without proper safety measures and equipment.   Many trampolines lack side netting and barriers.  Alternatively, the side netting or barrier is in place but in disrepair.  There are also trampolines in use and available for play with issues with the legs or footing of the trampoline.  Some have missing springs and holes in certain areas.   When a trampoline is not properly maintained, children can be harmed even during simple light use.

Colorful stack of books in library

Risk of Tip Over Injuries

At schools, day care centers, and summer camps, there may be a risks to children that may not be well identified by the administrators, owners, and employees.   The Consumer Products Safety Commission reports that over 260 children have died since 2000 due to furniture including but not limited to bookshelfs, dressers, and televisions tipping over on the children.  Another alarming statistics include the report that over 11,000 children suffered personal injuries from tip over related incidents during this time period as well.   The truth is that these injuries are quite foreseeable and preventable.  

One common risk that has been identified is the scenario in which a television – whether flat screen or standard – is placed on top of a dresser or bookcase.   Without proper support and anchoring, the television can be prone to tipping over along with the furniture itself.  This can happen from a person casually bumping into the area or child who lacks good safety judgment pull or pushing on the television or furniture.   As stated, these personal injuries can be avoided with proper anchoring.  Ideally, the facility has a trained maintenance person who can install the anchors in a secure manner.  If there is no such person employed at the day care center or school, a professional should be called in to take care of these most important safety measures.  It should be noted that improperly installed anchors may only be slightly better (if at all) than no anchors at all in protecting the children under the supervision of the day care center or school.   If a television, furniture, or other item cannot be securely anchored, then the best and most prudent measure to take is to get rid of this item from the day care center.   You can read more about this topic at Anchoring Televisions and Furniture Can Prevent Tip Over Injuries to Children. 

Halloween%20Jack%20O%20Lantern%20Child%20Safety.jpgHalloween is a great time for children to dress up and have fun. Since the holiday is typically celebrated at night and involves children roaming the neighborhood, parents should plan out the night and make sure that the children are properly supervised and safe during their Halloween activities including the traditional “Trick or Treat” visits to neighborhood homes.

Costume Selection. Ideally, costumes should be a bright color so that the child can be easily seen by drivers in the area. Many costumes are mostly black like those for vampires, witches, and other characters. Parents should add color, reflective strips, and glow sticks to the attire as needed to make sure that the child is visible during his or her trick or treat activities. Costumes should also be proper fitting so that the child does not trip while walking or running. In addition, mask and other items covering the face should be positioned and sized so that the child has sufficient vision or view to get around on Halloween.

Shoes. While heels and stilts may help complete a costume, parents should take efforts to make sure that the child wears comfortable shoes like sneakers. Many injuries take place on Halloween when a child trips and falls. Proper footwear can help prevent many of these incidents from taking place.

house%20brick%20two%20story%20close%20up%20of%20window.jpgUnfortunately, children are frequently injured while under the care and supervision of another person. In some instances, the injuries take place at the home of a neighbor, friend, or even family member. Is a homeowner liable for all child injuries that take place in or near the home? The simple answer is “No”. The homeowner is not liable for every incident and every injury that takes place in a home. Like any other case there are typically four factors to consider to determine if a homeowner is liable for injuries sustained by a child:

1. Duty. Generally, a homeowner has a duty to provide a reasonably safe environment for guests and visitors to the home including children. This includes the inside of the home as well as the yard and playground to the home. Furthermore, a homeowner has a duty to reasonably supervise children while at the home as well. The level and extent of the supervision will depend on the age of the children as well as the abilities and or special needs of the children.

2. Breach of Duty. When considering the issue or element of breach of duty, each case must be evaluated on its own facts and circumstances determine if the homeowner breached the duty. It all has to do with the reasonableness of the homeowner’s actions and if it was feasonable and practical to act differently.

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What are the legal rights of a child who is injured at the home of a neighbor, friend, or family member in the State of Florida? In Florida, children unfortunately suffer serious personal injuries when visiting the home of a relative, friend, neighbor, or other person. When injuries are suffered, questions often arise including the following: Is the homeowner legally responsible for the injury sustained by the child? Like many questions, the answer depends on the facts and circumstances of each case. Often times, there is no bright line between an injury that warrants a claim or case as opposed to one that does not. Because of the complexities of these cases, it is often helpful to have advice and legal representation from a Florida Child Injury Lawyer.

Many factors may be considered in determining the viability of the legal claim or case against the homeowner. These factors can include the age of the child, the number of children present, the activity engaged in by the child, the risk and dangers of the activity, adult supervision, and the preventability of injury. The book titled The ABCs of Child Injury – Legal Rights of the Injured Child – What Every Parent Should Know – has challenged on Homeowner’s Insurance, Injuries at Home, Damages, Compensation, Medical Treatment, Medical Bills, and other topics. You can get this book for free at The ABCs of Child Injury.

When a child is injured at the home of a relative, neighbor, friend or another person, the decision as to whether not to pursue a claim is a dependent factors beyond factual and legal ones. Often times the injuries take place at the home of the good friend or relative. Pursuing a case or claim against a good friend or relative can be quite stressful. While there is no legal protection or immunity afforded to a friend and most relatives, it is certainly understandable if a person decides not to pursue a particular injury case for concern or fear that it might affect the relationship. Of course, these concerns and issues must be weighed against the needs of the child, the extent of the homeowner’s negligence, the availability of insurance for medical bills, and the fairness of compensation for such injuries. All factors should be considered when a parent is evaluating or accessing a personal injury claim to be pursued on behalf of the child. Wood, Atter & Wolf, P.A. has been representing injured children and their families since 1957. Cases handled by the law firm have included day care centers, schools, homeowners, and businesses.

house%20simple%20graphic%20of%20single%20family%20home%20black%20and%20white.jpgIn Florida, children are the unfortunate victims of injury at the homes of neighbors, friends, acquaintances and even other family members. When a child is injured at the home of another person, the homeowner can be liable for the injuries and associated damages. A property owner / homeowner may be liable for the resulting injuries; however, the homeowner is not always liable. In order to determine the liability or responsibility for a homeowner when a child is injured, there must be an analysis or assessment of the four elements of a negligence case in the State of Florida.

1. Duty. The element of duty refers to the responsibility of the homeowner to maintain a safe and reasonable indoor and outdoor environment for the child. This does not mean that the homeowner is an insurer or absolute guarantor of safety. It only means that the homeowner has the responsibility to take reasonable efforts to maintain the premises in a safe manner. Furthermore, there is a duty to provide reasonable supervision based on the age of the child and activity at that the child engaged in.

2. Breach of Duty. The element of breach of duty refers to the failure of the homeowner to act in a reasonable manner or that the homeowner has acted in an unsafe or unreasonable manner. Either way, the breach of duty refers to the failure to carry out the duty to provide a safe and reasonable environment for the child.