Most parents would say that protecting the health and safety of their child is a top priority. Yet risks of injury can lurk in many ordinary settings, ranging from the family home to the school or daycare that a child attends to the vehicles in which the child travels. Parents can take precautions to protect their child, but they cannot shield them completely. Since the bodies and minds of children are still evolving, they may suffer more serious harm than an adult might in a similar situation.
Some accidents are simply accidents, for which nobody is at fault. When someone other than a parent caused or contributed to injuries to a child, however, parents may have legal recourse. They may be able to bring a claim or lawsuit to recover compensation for the harm that the child suffered. Compensation may account for the costs associated with treating the child, as well as any other out-of-pocket expenses incurred by the parents. In addition, a child may receive compensation for their pain and suffering and other intangible harm.
Before a child grows old enough to move around on their own, parents may want to “childproof” certain parts of their home that could pose particular risks. These might include windows, furniture, electrical outlets, and areas where a parent keeps items that could easily injure a child, such as medications or chemicals. Parents also should make sure that a child cannot access a swimming pool or any other dangerous property feature when they are not supervised.
Many accidents that occur in the home arise from encounters with defective products. When this happens, parents might bring a product liability claim against the manufacturer on behalf of their child. This would involve showing that a defect in the product caused the injuries. A product might contain a manufacturing or design defect, or it might lack adequate instructions or warnings. Accidents resulting from causes other than defective products might be traced to careless actions by a party such as a maintenance company, landlord, or neighbor.
Strict Liability vs. Negligence
Products liability claims against manufacturers usually rely on a theory of strict liability, which does not require proving a lack of care by a manufacturer. In contrast, claims against other parties typically rely on a theory of negligence, which involves a lack of reasonable care.
Parents have a right to expect a school to take reasonable steps to keep their children safe while they are on school property or participating in school activities. For example, a school should keep its premises in a safe condition. School administrators should carefully investigate reports of bullying or threats of violence. A school should conduct proper background checks when hiring teachers or other staff members.
If a school unreasonably puts students at risk, parents may have a claim against the school. Suing a school district after a child suffers injuries at a public school may require parents to meet distinctive requirements, such as filing a notice of claim with the school district or another designated government agency. States may impose further restrictions on school district liability as well. Depending on the circumstances, parents may want to explore the potential liability of third parties, such as a manufacturer of defective equipment used at the school, a bus company contracted by the school, or the owner of a property where a school activity like a field trip occurred.
Talk to an Attorney
School injuries may raise complex legal questions, such as the scope of immunity granted to a school district, the validity of a waiver that parents signed, or the delegation of duties between a school and a third party. To avoid any missteps, parents may want to consult an attorney who is experienced in these cases.
Car accidents can cause serious injuries to anyone, but children are especially vulnerable. Parents should make sure that their children stay in car seats or booster seats until they have grown enough to safely use a seat belt. When a defect in a car seat or another child safety device causes injuries, parents may have a claim against the manufacturer of the device. More often, though, accidents result from careless driving. Parents then would seek compensation from the driver at fault.
Teenagers often get excited by the prospect of driving, yet they may not always act as carefully as they should behind the wheel. When a teen driver was at fault for an accident, an injured child riding with the teen or in another vehicle might be able to recover compensation through the auto insurance policy of the teen’s parents. In some cases, the parents of the at-fault teen may be liable as well, although these rules vary by state.
The internet offers valuable educational and recreational opportunities to children, but it also opens the door to risks of which parents should be aware. A sexual predator may contact a child online, initially posing as a friend of the child but ultimately exploiting them for sex or pornographic materials. Identity thieves may target children because they have clean credit records, and the theft is more likely to go undetected. Bullying is a threat online just as much as in real life, and it may be even more damaging because a child cannot escape it.
Some risks may arise when a child spends too much time in certain online activities. While violent video games are not clearly linked to teenage violence, research suggests that they may spur aggressive behavior on a smaller scale. Concerns also have emerged over excessive social media use, causing some parents to sue these platforms for allegedly fostering “addiction” to social media. The viability of these lawsuits remains unclear as of late 2022.
Child Abuse and Neglect
In some disturbing cases, an adult may intentionally inflict harm on a child. Physical, sexual, or emotional abuse can affect a child far into the future. Anyone who suspects that a child is suffering from abuse should report their concerns to the authorities. Some people are “mandatory reporters,” as defined by state law. They have an obligation to report abuse and may be held criminally and civilly accountable if they fail in this duty.
Meanwhile, child neglect consists of a failure to account for the essential needs of a child. This can put their health and safety at risk. If neglect occurs in a setting outside the control of parents, such as a daycare, they may be able to sue the person or entity responsible for the neglect.
How can I make my home safer for my child? You can make your home safer by putting items that you do not want your child to access in locked drawers or cabinets, and in places that your child cannot reach. You also might want to take safety measures for windows, furniture, and electrical outlets.
When can a child safely stop using a booster seat? A child can safely stop using a booster seat when they can fit in a seat belt so that the lap belt fits snugly across their upper thighs and the shoulder belt fits snugly across their shoulder and chest.
What is sexting? Sexting occurs when a teenager sends or receives sexually explicit photos or videos. While this behavior is usually consensual, it may lead to criminal charges. Some states have passed laws specific to sexting.
Child Abuse and Neglect An adult may perpetrate physical, emotional, or sexual abuse against a child, leaving scars that last far into the future. Meanwhile, neglect involves a failure to meet a child’s basic needs.
Toy Hazards Parents should get toys that are appropriate for the age and maturity level of their child. If a toy is defective, they can sue the manufacturer for compensation for any resulting injuries.
Bullying in Schools A child may suffer severe physical and psychological harm from bullying, which demands prompt intervention. Parents may be able to sue a school if it ignored or tolerated this behavior.
Teen Driver Accidents Novice drivers are more likely to cause crashes due to their inexperience and propensity for distracted or aggressive behaviors. Sometimes their parents may be liable for their conduct.
Video Games and Children Although there is not enough evidence to support a clear causal link between violent games and violent behavior, there is a reliable association between violent games and aggressive outcomes.