https://www.floridachildinjurylawyer.com/files/2019/05/Nanny-Cam.001-150x150.jpegVideo surveillance equipment in the home, day care centers, and schools can and do go a long way in identifying abuse and preventing it.  When an infant or toddler is being abused or neglected, the child does not have the ability to advocate for himself or herself; however, a video showing such abuse can do the talking for the child.  A caregiver should exhibit restraint, love, and patience when supervising a child.  Unfortunately, there are far too many instances of abuse and neglect by the very people who are supposed to protect a child – the caregiver.

Parents should be aware of signs of abuse or neglect. An abused child will have frequent, unexplained injuries like bruises, black eyes, or cuts and often wear unusual clothing to hide these marks. A child may  seem withdrawn or have very stifled emotional reactions to things, especially pain. An abused child can often seem watchful, as if he or she is waiting for something bad to happen. A neglected child may have bad hygiene, lack proper bathing or have a noticeable body odor. Clothes can be ill-fitting or unwashed. Neglected children are frequently left unsupervised or allowed to play in unsafe situations. These are all indicators of abuse after it has already happened, but there are some methods to obtain proof of abuse.

A “nanny cam” is a webcam or other small camera placed in a parent’s home where they can monitor their babysitter to see if they are taking proper care of the children. These cameras can even be connected to the internet so parents can watch in real-time. Nanny cams are an effective way to gather evidence of a caretaker abusing a child in the event of a criminal or civil lawsuit.  While a nanny cam can document abuse, the video / audio content of the nanny cam is not always admissible in a civil or criminal case.  The admissibility of such evidence will be determined by the applicable laws in place and the rulings of the judge assigned to the case.  The State of Florida is a “two-party consent state,” which means that, if the nanny cam records both video and audio, parents must notify the babysitter that they are going to be recorded. If there is no consent, nanny cam video or audio might be ruled inadmissible in legal proceedings, according to Florida Statute section 934.03. Nonetheless, nanny cams are the among the best ways to show definitive proof of child abuse, especially when the child is unable to properly communicate.  When hiring a nanny, it may be advisable to have the nanny sign an employment form which advises the nanny that the home is equipped with audio and video equipment at random parts of the home.  While this will give the nanny notice that he or she is being watched, it does not necessary inform the nanny where the equipment is set up.  If the parent incorporates this language into a longer document, the nanny may ultimately forget what he or she signed and still engage in abusive conduct that is documented on the video even with knowledge of the equipment in place.

Day-Care-Center-Safety-150x150In Florida and other states, day care center related laws require minimal standard or training for staff members.  With or without these standards in place, the safety of children warrant this training and more.  When selecting a day care center, it is important to find out information as to training, licensure, and prior inspections. Training is needed for all aspects of care from food consumption to sleeping protocols.

Day care professionals are required to receive a certain level of training before they can work at a day care. In the State of Florida, a person must complete 40 hours of training and pass a competency exam, then an additional 10 hours of in-service training. This intensive training is designed to prepare them for any situation that could come their way while watching children. They become familiarized with basic first aid and CPR, as well as making accommodations for children with allergies or special needs children. There is even more training that must be taken if a caretaker intends to work with children under 24 months. This includes understanding safe sleeping practices to prevent SIDS, general head trauma prevention, and brain development. In short, training for day care providers is meant to keep the children enlisted in the day care as safe as possible.

If this training is not received, the results can be disastrous. A child can get seriously hurt or killed if in the care of an improperly or inadequately trained person. While this situation would likely result in the shutting down of the day care, this does not ameliorate the pain suffered by bereaved parents In order to avoid this, parents should take care to research the day care they intend to send their children to. Just a few hours of online browsing, reading, and related training could save their child’s life.

Day-Care-Center-Negligence-150x150Florida has warm weather virtually year round.  While this makes Florida a destination state for many tourists, it also makes Florida a dangerous place for infants and toddlers left in a day care center van.  Tragically, a children die or are injured as a result of the negligence of a day care center and its staff. While some incidents and injuries are unforeseen and unpreventable, leaving a child in a day care center van is one such avoidable accident.
In 2010, I published my first book titled – The ABCs of Child Injury – Legal Rights of the Injured Child – What Every Parent Should Know.  On Page 40 of the book is the following topic:
What Should Day Care Centers Do to Prevent Injuries Resulting from Leaving Children Unattended in a Vehicle? 

Summer-150x150During the summer months, children get a break from school and and are able to the enjoy the outdoors, swimming, sports, summer camp, and other activities.  With these activities, there are risks. Children, especially toddlers and infants, lack basic safety awareness.  Elementary school aged children, pre-teens, and even teens do not always recognize the danger of certain activities and situation.  As such, it is important for adults, caregivers, counselors, teachers, and others responsible for the care and supervision of children to be mindful of the risks for many summer activities.  When a child is injured, the most important thing to do is to get the child out of harm’s way and then address the medical needs of a child.  When a child is injured due to the negligence of others, there may be a legal remedy and right to compensation for the injured child.  While the pursuit of justice and the enforcement of legal rights are important concepts, it is also important to exercise due care and supervision to begin with so that injuries are avoided. With summer activities, the safety of the child is paramount to other concerns and issues.

In the summer, children will often go swimming. Because of this, pool safety should be the priority for parents, caregivers, teachers, counselorse, and pool owners. More than 1,000 children each year die from drowning and countless others suffer life-altering injuries. The majority of drowning accidents happen in home swimming pools. Of these drownings, most of these could have been prevented had a gate been installed around the pool. Pool gates should be at least four feet tall and be out of the reach of a small child. If your child is swimming, you should be in the pool with them, or supervising from a close distance. Supervision should involve having your eyes on the phone and the child rather than your eyes on a mobile phone, TV, or tablet.

Another potential danger to children this summer is a treehouse. Almost 3,000 children are sent to the hospital every year for treehouse related injuries; anywhere from bumps and bruises to cuts from broken glass and strangulation from rope. Due to the number of risks, a parent should take special care when constructing and allowing a child to play in a treehouse. They should build it low to the ground, no higher than ten feet. The treehouse needs solid barrier walls. And, if children are playing in the treehouse, they should be supervised.

Motorcycle-and-Bicycle-Safety-150x150Florida is a state with beaches and scenery that people love to bike through. Unfortunately, bicyclists as well as motorcyclists are at risk when a careless driver does not give due respect and distance to motorcycles and bicycles.  It has been reported that over 9,500 motorcyclists were involved in a crash in 2018.  This is a slight increase from the numbers for the calendar year 2017.  Furthermore, it was reported over 7,000 bicyclists were involved in a crash in 2018.  Combined, there were over 16,500 motorcyclists and bicyclists involved in a crash, over 600 of which ended fatally.

The month of May is Motorcycle and Bicycle Safety Month, and motorists are reminded to pay attention and share the road safely. Drivers should avoid following motorcycles and bicycles closely, keep a four-second buffer zone between themselves and a motorcyclist or cyclist. Always utilize caution while on the road, look twice before crossing the street, and do not drive distractedly; keep your eyes on the road and watch for bikers and cyclists. They have the rights and responsibilities as drivers, so drivers must share the road accordingly.

In addition to precautions taken by drivers, bicyclists and motorcyclists can also make strides to act safely. All bicyclists and motorcyclists should wear helmets. Almost 90% of the people involved in a bicycle accident in the last year were not wearing a helmet. Motorcyclists should make an effort to drive defensively and avoid reckless speeding and weaving between lanes. Cyclists should make themselves noticeable with bright clothes and lights, especially while riding at night. They should act predictably in order to minimize surprises for other drivers and think ahead to avoid hazards. Both cyclists and motorcyclists can benefit from referring to the official Florida Driver License Handbook to familiarize themselves with the rules of the road.

Florida-Dog-Bite-150x150In the State of Florida, dog ownership involves a right to possess personal property in the form of a pet.  It also involves the responsibility to control the dog and to be responsible when the dog bites or attacks another person.  Florida has adopted the “Strict Liability” rule for dog bite related cases.  In other words, if a dog bites or attacks a person, the dog owner is liable regardless of the dog’s prior history or lack of prior history of aggression or prior dog bites.  For example, let’s say that Fido, a Golden Retrievers, bites another person in the face causing serious personal injuries.  Prior to the incident, Fido was the always the nicest and most gentlest of dogs.  The injury victim was in the living room of the dog owner and, for some reason or no reason at all, the dog lunged forward and bit the victim in the face.  Under these circumstances, it does not appear that the dog owner did anything wrong. There was no duty to have the dog on a leash in the living room. Furthermore, the dog owner did not have any notice at all that the incident was likely to happen based on Fido’s prior history of being a wonderful and friendly pet. Nevertheless, under Florida’s Strict Liability Dog Bite Law, the dog owner, subject to some limited exceptions, will be liable for the injuries caused by the dog bite.

A key consideration or issue in pursuing a dog bite case involves the presence or absence of homeowner’s insurance. Unfortunately, in the State of Florida as well as other states, far too many homeowner’s insurance policies exclude coverage for dog bite related injuries.  When there is coverage for dog bite related injuries, many such homeowner’s insurance policies limit coverage to an amount less than other types of liability / injury claims that can be pursued under the insurance policy.  When there is insurance coverage, a claim can be pursued.  When there is no insurance or an exclusion in place, a case can still be pursued; however, it may prove to be difficult to get the dog owner to pay out of his own pocket for the personal injuries caused by the dog bite.

David Wolf is a personal injury attorney with over 28 years of experience. He is the author of 12 books including the book titled – When A Dog Is Not Man’s Best Friend – Legal Rights Of The Dog Bite Victim.  The book has chapters on the following topics:

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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.