Child Daycare Injuries
Seeking Compensation for Child Injuries at Daycare
At Glouzgal Ramos Groth LLP, we understand the emotional and psychological toll that child injuries can have on a family. We have previously written articles on child injuries that happen on school buses. In this article, we will take a look at child injuries at daycare.
Why are child injuries at daycare important?
For many families, the ability of the parents to provide for their children is dependant on the parents leaving their children in the care of another person so that they can go to work. When you entrust your children to the care of another, you expect that their number one priority is the safety of your child.
The leading cause of child fatalities in the US and Connecticut is unintentional injury, or accidents. Between the years 2000 and 2004, accidental injury caused the deaths of 8,539 children between the ages of 1 and 4, and 6,072 deaths of children between the ages of 5 and 9. Between 2000 and 2004, Connecticut had 49 children ages 1 to 4 and 35 children ages 5 to 9 that died from accidental injuries. In Connecticut, accidents are responsible for 25% of all deaths for children ages 1 to 14.
Between the years 1985 and 2003, there were a total of 1,362 child deaths that happened at daycare.
How are daycare providers responsible for child injuries?
Depending on the circumstances, a daycare provider can be held liable for both accidental or intentional child injuries at daycare.
How can a daycare provider be responsible for accidental injuries? Even when accidents happen, that does not necessarily mean that nobody is to blame. If the accident was caused by the negligence or recklessness of the daycare operator, they can be held liable for the resulting injuries. A daycare operator is negligent when they create a risk of injury that they are not aware they created. Recklessness, a higher level of fault, happens when a daycare operator knows of a risk to injury but does nothing to correct it.
For example, failure to adequately train their employees (leaving a gap in one part of the training) is likely to be seen as negligent, while failure to train their employees at all could be reckless. Failure to supervise a specific child at a specific moment would likely be deemed negligent, while having no caregivers present at all would likely be reckless. Allowing an unsafe condition to develop on the premises is usually seen as negligence, while known of an unsafe defect on the premises (say a loose stair) and doing nothing to repair it, is likely to arise to recklessness.
In order to win a case for child injuries at daycare based on negligence, a duty of care must be shown to exist; which is sometimes difficult to do. One of the easier ways to go about proving negligence is to employ the legal doctrine of negligence “per se”, or negligence “in itself”. When an action violates a law or regulation and the person injured is the person the law was meant to protect, it is negligent per se.
Connecticut has very strict guidelines for the licensing and operation of daycare centers, specifically for the purpose of keeping the children safe. Since the legislature has expressed its intent to protect children from injury via these regulations, any failure to comply with such a law that causes child injuries at daycare is negligent per se! Therefore, any time a child is injured at daycare and the parent wants to see if the daycare center acted negligently, the best place to start is by looking at whether or not the daycare provider is compliant with state law and regulations. Here are some regulatory requirements to review:
- Is the daycare center properly licensed by the State? Are the licenses up-to-date?
- Are all teachers qualified to oversee children?
- Was the caregiver to child ratio adequate?
- Center-based daycare must maintain caregiver to child ratios of 1:4 for infants and toddlers, 1:10 for children over 3 years old and older, and must also maintain a 1:4 ratio for mixed age groups.
- Home-based daycare must maintain a ratio of 1:6 for children not in school full time and can have a maximum of 2 infants per caregiver.
- Failure to provide employees with a policy manual on how to handle emergencies.
- Failure to follow doctor’s orders or administer medication.
- Failure to properly screen employees (negligence employment).
- Was a child left unattended, especially during meal time?
- Failure to maintain a first aide kit.
- Failure to comply with Building codes, Fire Safety code, Public Health codes, or any other local regulation.
Intentional injuries are those that were caused by actions specifically meant to injure a child. These are the ones you usually hear about in the news. Usually, intentional child injuries at daycare are connected with crimes such as assault, battery, or even homicide.
Since criminal liability has to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, and civil liability on requires a preponderance of the evidence (a lower legal standard), if a daycare caregiver or daycare operator is found guilty of a crime that caused injury to a child, they will almost certainly be found liable for the injuries. The doctrine of negligence per se may also apply in these situations.
An employer can also be held liable, through negligence or recklessness, for the injuries caused by intentional actions of their employees. Since Connecticut puts a background check requirement on daycare employees and puts the burden of performing and reviewing such background checks on the owner of the daycare business, a failure to perform the background check, or ignoring the results of the background check, would almost certainly create daycare owner civil liability for the criminal acts of an employee; especially where the criminal act was performed during the performance of the employee’s job.
How do parents seek compensation for injuries to their child or children?
Most daycare owners have the business insured. If your child is injured at daycare you would likely begin by filing a claim with their insurance company. The insurance company will have adjusters and attorneys working for them with the sole purpose of paying as little as possible for your child’s injuries. They will try to get recorded statements that downplay your child’s injuries, or try to place some of the blame for the injury on the child or the parent. If their liability and coverage are clear, the insurance company will try to settle. But how do you know if the settlement offer they are making is a good one?
You will want the help of a child injury attorney. Child injuries are different from adult injuries, and may have implications that are unique to children. A child injury lawyer can help you file a claim, collect the proper documentation, and negotiate a potential settlement on your behalf (one that is fair). Once hired, the attorney can make sure that the insurance company and the daycare owner no longer contact you directly. If a settlement cannot be reached, you will need to file a lawsuit. A child injury attorney will know who to sue, what to see them for, and how to properly serve them.