who is liable for child injuries at daycare

Seeking Compensation for Child Injuries at Daycare

Child Daycare Injuries

Seeking Compensation for Child Injuries at Daycare

At G&G Law, LLC, 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.

Unintentional Injuries

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:

  1. Is the daycare center properly licensed by the State? Are the licenses up-to-date?
  2. Are all teachers qualified to oversee children?
  3. 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.
  4. Failure to provide employees with a policy manual on how to handle emergencies.
  5. Failure to follow doctor’s orders or administer medication.
  6. Failure to properly screen employees (negligence employment).
  7. Was a child left unattended, especially during meal time?
  8. Failure to maintain a first aide kit.
  9. Failure to comply with Building codes, Fire Safety code, Public Health codes, or any other local regulation.

Intentional Injuries

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. 

Child Injuries Caused by Motorists Failure to Stop for School Bus

A recent video posted by ABC World News shows the gross negligence and recklessness of drivers as they pass school buses unloading children. While the video is national in scope, Connecticut statistics for infractions issued for failure to stop for a school bus show that our State has a similar problem.

Connecticut General Statute 14-279 requires that any motor vehicle shall immediately stop not less than 10 feet in front of or behind a school bus displaying flashing red lights on any highway, private road, parking area or school grounds. Authorized emergency vehicles are also required to stop. It should be noted that the statute only requires the bus to display flashing red lights, and does not require use of the STOP sign commonly found on the sides of buses.

In 2011, there were 582 ticketed offenses for passing an unloading school bus. Between 2007 and 2011 there were a total of 3,107 ticketed offenses. Those are the numbers JUST for Connecticut. That’s 3,107 potentially life threatening injuries to children.

When the law was first being enacted in 1985, the Executive Director of the Connecticut School Transportation Association at that time, Robin Leeds, called the passing of unloading school buses “the most serious problem in school transportation”. She noted that back then “all our fatalities occur here” and “our most severe injuries as well”.

The fine for passing a school bus unloading children is $450 per occurrence. However, the main risk is that of injuring a child. When injury is caused to another in the process of breaking a law, that action is considered negligence per se. Therefore, drivers passing a school bus that injure a child shall be liable for the injuries to that child without having to prove negligence; negligence will be assumed by the court.

Between football injuries and bullying, many parents spend a lot of time worrying about how safe their children are at school. However, there seems to be just as much if not more risk in getting the children to and from school safely. If your child is injured in an accident while getting on or off of a school bus remember one thing: it was not an accident, it was caused by the negligent or reckless actions of another person. You should seek the help of experienced personal injury attorneys, especially those with experience handling child injury matters. At G&G Law, LLC our attorneys work together to combine their experiences in personal injury matters and their experience in representing the welfare and interests of children, to seek proper compensation for injured children and their parents.

The ABC World News Video can be seen HERE.