Playground injuries occur at an alarming rate in the United States. In fact, each year more than 200,000 children are treated in emergency departments for playground-related accidents with dozens of children dying of their injuries. Minor school and playground injuries are inevitable with kids, but preventing serious injury is a concern for everyone.
Playground injuries range from broken bones, head injuries and cuts to the more serious injuries of strangulation, amputations and even death. Proper equipment maintenance and supervision are the most effective methods to preventing accidents at a residential playgrounds, school playgrounds, public parks and recreational areas.
The National Program for Playground Safety maintains that supervision is the key to reducing playground injuries. When children suffer injuries on the playground due to negligent supervision, those responsible can be held liable for resulting expenses, losses, and suffering.
Along with supervision, regular maintenance of equipment is essential in preventing playground accidents. Sharp edges, dysfunctional equipment parts, slippery surfaces and other dangers of a poorly maintained playground can be responsible for serious playground injuries. Failure to maintain a facility’s equipment can lead to injuries and legal implications for those at fault.
A third element in helping prevent injuries at playgrounds is making sure that the sites are properly designed and constructed. For instance, since most serious playground accidents are the result of falls, rubberized or other soft ground cover is essential in playground areas to prevent serious injury. Having play sets and equipment that is solidly built, properly anchored and designed to withstand area weather and usage are all safety factors.
Schools and other operators of playgrounds have a duty to protect children from foreseeable dangers on the premises. For example, in a case where a child is injured on a playground by a sharp crack in a metal slide, the owner/operator has authority over the playground area. The owner/operator expects children to play on the playground equipment and they have a duty to regularly inspect the playground equipment and repair any problems. If the owner/operator did not regularly inspect the playground equipment, they failed to exercise a reasonable amount of care. Since one can reasonably expect equipment to deteriorate over time, injury due to decaying playground equipment is a foreseeable harm. The owner/operator’s failure to correct the problem with the slide would be the major cause of the child’s injury.
Along with injuries from faulty equipment, negligent supervision is also a factor in many playground accidents. When someone accepts the responsibility of watching your child, that person could be liable for harm that comes to your child because of a lack of supervision. School teachers, school staff and camp staff have a heightened duty of care toward your child because they are acting in loco parentis, which is Latin for "in the place of parents". They must take reasonable steps to prevent foreseeable harm to children and these groups must have an effective system of supervision in place to keep students safe. Other organizations and individuals that agree to watch your children also have a duty to act with reasonable care to avoid injury to your children.
One example of negligent supervision is where children at school are let out to play at recess without any supervision and a fight erupts. If the fight escalates and a child is pushed off a climber and breaks an arm, the school is negligent in its supervision of the children. If a staff member had supervised recess and stopped the fight, this incident likely would not have occurred.
When you entrust your children to another individual or organization such as a school, camp or responsible adult, you have a right to expect the child to be safe. If a poor or careless decision is made resulting in the failure to provide your child with a safe environment, you have legal recourse. We all understand that minor school and playground injuries are inevitable with kids, but serious injury caused by negligence is never okay.
Timing is important after a playground accident. Different laws and legal rules apply from other personal injury cases where the responsible party is a school or public entity. You typically have only six months from the date of the accident to file your claim, and any failure to meet the procedural requirements can bar you forever from bringing your claim or filing a lawsuit. If your child has suffered a school or playground injury, it is essential to quickly contact a lawyer who can start working on your case right away.