Children can injure themselves almost anywhere. As every parent knows, even the safest playground equipment can turn into a deathtrap when combined with a horde of little ones. While many playground injuries are due to inadequate supervision or dangerous behavior, a surprising amount are due to an unsafe playground. If your child was injured due to an unsafe playground, an experienced personal injury lawyer can help you to recover the damages you deserve.
Public Playgrounds and Premises Liability
Playgrounds, schools, and other public places designed for children have special liability. Children require intensive supervision, tend to be more physical and adventurous, and are prone to injury, so they have special legal protections. This special liability for spaces designed for children is called premises liability.
Laws regarding premises liability vary by state. However, there are a few things that generally must apply in order for the operators of a playground to be held legally responsible for injury to a child:
- The person or entity being sued owns, operates, or is otherwise in charge of the playground.
- The property was made so that children can play or otherwise be on it.
- The defendant was somehow negligent and did not take adequate measures to ensure safety.
- The injury was foreseeable and predictable.
- Negligence and carelessness were the major contributor to the injury.
In general, playgrounds are made for children to play, climb, run, swing, and otherwise use the equipment present. If a playground has a dangerous situation such as icy walkways, broken equipment, or equipment that is generally unsafe for children, premises liability likely applies.
Equipment does not have to be in disrepair to be dangerous. If you have ever looked at a slide that is too tall and wondered how children can avoid falling and harming themselves, you have noticed a liability that the owners should be aware of. Similarly, old school equipment, such as swings and merry-go-rounds, are often inherently dangerous for small children – even if they are fun. Modern playgrounds are supposed to be designed to allow fun and free movement without leaving children at high risk of injury or other harm.
What Is Adequate Supervision?
In addition to liability for the nature of a property, there can also be potential liability for supervision. In general, a person is responsible for the supervision of a child, as well as any injuries that the child incurs under their care, when the following circumstances apply:
- The defendant agreed to provide supervision for the child.
- The defendant failed to properly supervise.
- The child was hurt as a result.
Schools automatically assume responsibility for supervising their pupils as well as any children present on their property. The matter is more complicated with public playgrounds. If the playground is normally supervised and this is arranged by the owners or operators, people should be able to assume that this will generally be the case. In addition, if someone you know (such as the parent of a child’s friend) took your child to the playground or offered to supervise them, they likely can be sued successfully for any injuries that occur as a result of their negligence.
In some cases, children can act dangerously and contribute to their own injury. However, this does not necessarily mean that other people or entities cannot be sued. If a child was using playground equipment or facilities in a reasonable way, they are likely not at fault. Public playgrounds are supposed to be designed for climbing, pushing, and other rough play.
Are Public Properties Immune?
Public properties generally have to obey the same rules as other kinds of property. However, there are a few exceptions. Some states and cities make it very difficult to sue them successfully. They give themselves immunity to many types of lawsuit. This kind of immunity does not generally exist in the United States for private properties. While this is often unfair, it may affect your ability to collect damages when your child is hurt at a playground or even a school.
However, there are often loopholes even in areas with immunity. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you to determine your chances of winning.
What Kind of Damages Can I Collect If My Child Is Hurt?
If you can successfully prove that a playground had premises liability for your child’s injury, there are several different types of damages that you can collect. First, you can collect repayment of medical bills that occurred as a result of the injury, including future medical expenses. Second, you can sometimes collect payment for pain and suffering. Sustaining an injury on a playground is often traumatic for a child and can lead to them being afraid to play normally. Third, you can sue for additional costs related to the injury such as time missed from work and transportation to medical care. In addition, many people can successfully collect attorney’s fees and other legal expenses.
If the operators of the playground were grossly negligent and had a truly unsafe situation, some judges will also apply punitive damages. Punitive damages are a payment that is awarded to punish someone who acted badly – to discourage this behavior in the future.
Your personal injury attorney can help you to decide what is reasonable to ask for in your lawsuit. This will allow you to potentially get as much money as possible without looking unreasonable to courts.
Do You Need a Personal Injury Attorney?
Children are precious but also often have poor judgment. It is particularly unfortunate when a child is harmed as the result of someone else’s negligence. If your child was hurt on a public playground, it is important to contact a personal injury attorney today. Not only do you deserve repayment for medical bills and expenses, but you also should act immediately to protect other children. An experienced lawyer can help you to get the funds you need and to ensure that playgrounds are maintained in a safe manner for the children around you.