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By David Wolf, Attorney and Samantha Vloedman, Law Clerk

Published by Child Injury Lawyer Blog

Illustration of lady statue of libery facing front holding weighing scales of justice and sword set inside crest shield on isolated white background.

When a child is being cared for at a day care center, school, summer camp, or other person / entity, a parent should be able to rely on the good nature of people and organizations that the child will be cared for in a nurturing manner by adults who really promote the best interests of their child. Unfortunately, people in trust like child care providers, babysitters, and even family members use these unique opportunities to abuse, neglect, and molest the very children under their care.

A Michigan man was recently convicted for sexually abusing a child at an at home day care center. The man provided transportation for the children and was often in the home where the day care service was provided. He was sentenced for six counts of second degree criminal sexual conduct and two counts of accosting and soliciting a child.

When a child is molested or abused at a day care center, criminal charges can be filed, like those filed against the man in Michigan, and a civil law suit can be filed to recover monetary damages for the victim. Criminal and civil cases have two different burdens of proof. This means that each has a certain level of proof that the prosecutor or plaintiff must show in order to have a defendant found guilty by a jury.

A prosecutor in a criminal case must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime. This is the highest burden of proof in the court system. Beyond a reasonable doubt is not a mere possibility that someone else could have committed the crime. Anything is possible. Instead, it means that based on logic or reason, there is only one explanation in the mind of the juror.

A plaintiff in a civil law suit must prove by the greater weight of the evidence that the defendant committed the wrongful act. This standard is less than the standard in a criminal case. Here, the plaintiff only has to show that the defendant more likely than not committed the wrongful act.

When a person molests or abuses a child at a day care center, the person may face both the consequences of prison time and fines through a criminal case and the consequences of a judgment for damages through a civil case. It is best to contact a Child Injury Attorney in the event that a child is molested or abused at a day care center or other location to determine whether a civil law suit can be filed to enforce the legal rights of the child.

A good resource for a parent dealing with the aftermath of a child abused at a day care center or other entity is the book – The ABCs of Child Injury – Legal Rights of the Injured Child – What Every Parent Should Know. This book has chapters on Day Care Center Injuries, School Injuries, Playground Injuries, Water Park and Aquatic Injuries, and other topics. You can get this book for free at The ABCs of Child Injury.

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By David Wolf, Attorney and Samantha Vloedman, Law Clerk

Published by Child Injury Lawyer Blog

cal-icons2-201408-232In Tennessee and other States, children are at risk for serious injuries and even death anytime that they cross a street or are playing near a street.  Some children even get hit by a vehicle in a driveway or parking lot.

Recently, in Memphis, a young boy was struck and killed as he crossed the street in front of his home. The young boy lived in a neighborhood right by a school. Although it was a Sunday evening and the school zone was not actively lit, drivers should recognize that many children and families live near schools and children at any time can be crossing the street.

Children are young and not always paying the closest attention to their surroundings. Their youth brings a sense of indestructability because they do not always comprehend the dangers that lurk in the world. With their small stature, it may be difficult to see a child walking across the street or between cars in a parking lot.

School zones are a designated areas to drive extra slow and be on high alert. When the lights in the school zone are active, children will be frequently crossing the street to attend school. The same is true for bus stops. Children congregate at bus stops waiting for their ride to school. While waiting, children often begin playing and can easily become distracted and get too close to the road. By taking an extra time to slow down otherwise be more cautious of the presence of children, accidents and death can be avoided.

Parking lots can be very dangerous for children since they are a place where drivers may not see children children due to their height.  Furthermore, parked cars, turns, and curves can all make it even more diffiult to see children walking or playing on or near parking lots. Drivers are often distracted searching for an empty parking space and not necessarily able to see a small child step out from between two parked cars. Before the driver realizes the child is there, it may be too late.

If a child is struck by a driver, the driver can be held liable for the child’s injuries. For example, if a driver is paying more attention to locating an empty parking space than to any people or children walking through the parking lot and strikes a child, the driver can be held liable for negligence. A civil lawsuit can be filed by the parents of the injured child.  A civil case or insurance claim must be based on the fault of the driver of the vehicle.  Just because a child is injured does not form the entire basis to pursue a civil case or insurance claim.  There are essentially four elements that must be established to prove up a case on behalf of an injured child as follows

  1. Duty;
  2. Breach of Duty;
  3. Causation; and
  4. Damages

There is a duty in every state for drivers to obey the rules of the road, traffic conditions, and to otherwise be alert to other drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians in the area.  Let’s say that a driver is texting while driving through a parking lot at a shopping center.  He does not notice a child walking with his mother through the parking lot with a grocery store shopping cart.  It was broad daylight and the shopping cart itself was bright yellow.   The driver crashed into the child and the child suffered a broken leg as a result of the crash.  Under these general facts, the four elements can be established to pursue a civil case or insurance claim.  Certainly, each case must be evaluated on its own facts and circumstances.

A good resource for a parent dealing with the aftermath of an injury caused by the negligence of a driver is the book – The ABCs of Child Injury – Legal Rights of the Injured Child – What Every Parent Should Know. This book has chapters on Day Care Center Injuries, School Injuries, Playground Injuries, Water Park and Aquatic Injuries, and other topics. You can get this book for free at The ABCs of Child Injury.

Published on:

By David Wolf, Attorney and Samantha Vloedman, Law Clerk

Published by Child Injury Lawyer Blog

Building Blocks Glossy -R - Day Care CenterIn Michigan and other States, parents rely upon day care centers to provide for a safe educational environment. One basic responsibility of the day care center is to supervise the children in a manner so that the children do not wander away from the facility.

In Michigan, a day care owner and worker are facing criminal charges of misdemeanor fourth degree child abuse. The two were charged after a child, that was supposed to be under their supervision, was found in the middle of a busy highway about 200 yards from the day care center. Luckily, a truck driver noticed the child, stopped his truck, and rescued the child from the dangers and risks of the busy highway.

Day care centers are entrusted to supervise and protect the children in their care. When day care centers fail to supervise and protect children, the children can be injured or even killed. Many states have licensing procedures in an effort to make sure that day care centers meet certain minimum standards of care for children. When day care centers fail to follow these standards, the day care center license can be revoked or suspended and the day care center may be shut down.

Losing a license is not the only concern for a day care center. As the two Michigan day care center employees learned, an owner / employee can be charged criminally for failing to properly supervise the children in their care. There are differing degrees of criminal child abuse, neglect, and even manslaughter that day care center owners / employees can face. The degree of the charge determines the amount of jail time the owner / employee may end up serving if the case results in a plea bargain OR criminal conviction through a trial.

In addition, children have legal rights that need to be protected. The parents of children that are injured, abused, or neglected, can file civil lawsuits against the day care centers for failing to supervise and protect the children in the day care center’s care. A civil lawsuit can often help a child to receive monetary damages to cover hospital and medical expenses caused by the negligence of the day care center and its employees.

A good resource for a parent dealing with the aftermath of an injury caused by the negligence of a day care center or other entity is the book – The ABC’s of Child Injury – Legal Rights of the Injured Child – What Every Parent Should Know. This book has chapters on Day Care Center Injuries, School Injuries, Playground Injuries, Water Park and Aquatic Injuries, and other topics. You can get this book for free at The ABCs of Child Injury.

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By David Wolf, Attorney

book-abcChild care providers should provide each and every child with a safe environment.  There is a duty to provide reasonable and necessary supervision.  While a day care center owner is not liable for every injury that takes place, it can be held liable for those injuries that result from the negligence or carelessness of the day care center provider.  It is vital that a day care center provider not only provide reasonable and necessary supervision but it is also important to provide prompt care and follow up when an injury or condition is observed by the day care center.   Unfortunately, many day care center providers attempt to “sweep or hide an injury under the rug” and fail to inform the parents of the injury so that timely and necessary medical care can be provided to the injured child.
If a child suffers a head injury or skull fracture at a school, summer camp, or day care center, a case or claim can be pursued against the day care center if the following four elements can be proved:
1. Duty;
2. Breach of Duty;
3. Causation; and
4. Damages.
In Houston, Texas, it was reported that a day care center owner was criminally charged with injuries to a child under her care.  The child was 8 months old.  The day care center owner states that she lost a grip on the child and he fell to the floor. The day care center allegedly did not report the injuries to the parents.  The child was ultimately diagnosed with a fractured skull.   The case or incident is under investigation. See Houston Texas Day Care Center Owner Faces Criminal Charges.
The day care center owner of the unlicensed day care center will be entitled to the services of a public defender or a criminal defense attorney.   The issues at hand will be the following:
How did the child suffer the injuries at the day care center?
Are the injuries consistent with the history of events provided by the day care center owner?
Did the day care center owner know about the head injuries?
Should the day care center owner known about the head injuries?
What symptoms did the child exhibit at the day care center? at home?
What kind of training did the day care center owner have to care for children?
Was the day care center owner required to maintain a day care center license?
Did the delay in notice to the parents cause additional harm to the child?
There are many other issues or questions that may be answered through the criminal investigation. It should be noted that the parents may also pursue a civil case or claim against the day care center owner; however, it is unlikely that the day care center maintained liability insurance. It is also unlikely that there is any homeowner’s insurance in place that would apply to or cover the damages or injuries sustained at a day care center.  A civil case or claim can be brought if a day care center is negligent or proved to be at fault for causing or contributing to the personal injuries of a child; however, it can be an uphill battle collecting any compensation for the personal injuries through a settlement or verdict if there is no liability insurance in place.
The book titled – The ABCs of Child Injury – Legal Rights of the Injured Child – What Every Parent Should Know – has chapters on Day Care Center Injuries, School Injuries, Playground Injuries, and other topics. You can get this book for free at The ABCs of Child Injury.
Published on:

By David Wolf, Attorney

School Bus CrashDuring the school year, millions of children are transported to and from school in yellow school buses and similar transportation.  Unfortunately for some of these children, a school bus accident results in serious personal injuries and even death.  Like other driving situations, a school bus driver has a duty of reasonable care while transporting children.  If a school bus driver is negligent, then a case or claim can be pursued against the school district, city, and / or county.   It should be noted that the notice requirements are different for public schools and there may be limitations or caps on the damages recoverable by a child when the child is injured due to the negligence of a public school bus driver.  Because of the complexity of these cases, it is important that a parent contact a Child Injury Lawyer for advice, counsel, and, when appropriate legal representation.
A school bus accident was recently reported in Durrango, Colorado in which personal injuries were reported. The school bus was traveling southbound when the driver veered off the side of the road and rolled down an embankment.  You can read more about the school bus crash at Durrango Colorado School Bus Rolls Over – Children Suffer Personal Injuries. 
When evaluating a personal injury case or claim, it is important to review the four essential elements of a case as follows:
1. Duty;
2. Breach of Duty;
3. Causation; and
4. Damages
When evaluating a personal injury case, it is important to pay close attention to each of the four elements including the element of damages.   Let’s say a child is injured in a school bus accident and sees his pediatrician one time.  There were no permanent scars or injuries and treatment was limited to that one visit.  Under this fact pattern, the damages are quite limited and the value of the case would then be quite limited.  Here is another fact pattern to consider. Let’s say a child suffers a fractured leg from the school bus accident.  The child ultimately needs surgery and undergoes 6 months of physical therapy.  This case would be valued much differently than the one pediatrician visit case.  Whether the injuries are minor or more serious, a parent should contact a Child Injury Lawyer to discuss the facts of the case and potential courses of action.   The book titled – When the Wheels Stop Spinning – Legal Rights of the Injured Child – What Parents Need to Know After the Accident – has chapters on Automobile Accidents, Bicycle Accidents, Pedestrian Accidents, Wrongful Death, and other topics. You can get this book for free at When the Wheels Stop Spinning. 
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By David Wolf, Attorney
Football ConcussionsIn high schools across the country, there is a tradition of sportsmanship, athleticism, school spirit, and, yes, concussions.   It is estimated that a high school player averages 650 head impacts per season.  Dr. Steven Miles and Dr. Shailendra Prasad of the University of Minnesota have taken a bold position that football be removed from schools across the country.  This is a bold statement at this time; however, as more information is gathered and studies regarding concussions and the long term effects on academic performance, memory, and cognitive functioning, more medical providers and other concerned people will join in and recommending and pushing for the ban on football.  Time will tell what happens and what social forces and influences will be put in place.  While football equipment has advanced over time in the form of helmet technology and padding, there does not appear to be any safety measure that has been put in place that can effectively prevent all or most concussions from taking place.  This will only happen with either a ban on football completely OR a drastic change in the way in which football games are played. You can read more about the position taken by these medical providers at Minnesota Doctors Recommend that High School Football Be Eliminated
At this time, football is a major sport in high school athletics.  There are some programs that have been discontinued due to financial constraints and some may even be discontinued for safety reasons; however, football still serves as an important focus for most communities – big and small in high schools.   It is important that coaches, administrators, and trainers be diligent about concussion awareness, prevention, and responsiveness.   If it is a suspected that a player has suffered a concussion, it is vital that all precautions be put in place for the protection of the player.   The safety of a child should be paramount over all other concerns including but not limited to competition.
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By David Wolf, AttorneyPublished by Child Injury Lawyer Blog

cal-0814-va4-nurser_04In New Hampshire and other States, hard working parents rely on day care centers to supervise their children in a safe and nurturing environment.  It is well known that children especially toddlers need supervision at all times in all parts of the day care center including the classroom and the playground.  If supervision is lacking, a child may end up suffering serious personal injuries or even death while at the day care center.  It is important that the supervision provided be in compliance with local and state day care center regulations including the staff to child ratio, background checks, and training.  Furthermore, distracted supervision is not the same as supervision.  If a teacher or child care provider is present or near the children but otherwise occupied by a mobile phone, tablet, or some other distraction, supervision may be lacking which, in turn, may lead to serious consequences and injuries.
In New Hampshire, it was reported that a day care owner was convicted in a criminal proceeding for the death of a 4 year old girl.  The incident took place in the backyard of the home day care center located in Enfield, New Hampshire.  It was alleged that the day care center owner put the children at risks for the lack of supervision.  The child died after a two day hospitalization.  The child was found hanging by her coat in the backyard.  This was a criminal proceeding involving the conviction of the day care owner. Since the facility was unlicensed, there is a strong probability that there was a lack of liability insurance.  Because of this, there were most likely practical financial obstacles to successfully pursuing a civil case AND collecting upon a settlement or judgment. See New Hampshire Day Care Center Owner Convicted in Death of Four Year Old Child. 
It should be noted that a civil case is different than a criminal case. Namely, the burden of proof is typically higher in a criminal case. The alleged guilty of the defendant must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. In a civil case, the common standard is to prove the negligence or fault of the child care provider and / or day care center by a preponderance of the evidence. The four basic elements of a civil case are as follows:
Duty;
Breach of Duty;
Causation; and
Damages
If the above elements can be proven, then there may be a civil case or claim to pursue on behalf of the child who suffered injuries or who died as a result of the negligence or fault of the day care center providers.   All four elements must be established. Merely proving that there was a mistake or a failure to follow a policy, procedure, or regulation is not enough.  Also, there are practical considerations as previously stated. If there is no liability insurance or sufficient assets to collect a settlement or judgment, it may be quite impractical to pursue a claim or case even if all of the above elements can be clearly established.
The book titled – The ABCs of Child Injury – Legal Rights of the Injured Child – What Every Parent Should Know – has chapters on Day Care Center Injuries, Playground Injuries, and other topics. You can get this book for free at The ABCs of Child Injury.
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By David Wolf, Attorney and Samantha Vloedman, Law Clerk

Published by Child Injury Lawyer Blog

book-abcIn Tennessee and other States, working parents rely upon day care centers to provide the health, safety, welfare, supervision, and guidance of their children. When selecting a day care center, a parent has a number of factors to consider including location, costs, hours, compliance, history, licensure, and in some States like Tennessee a Star Quality Program.

The Star Quality Program in Tennessee has provided parents with a short-cut of sorts for narrowing down the prospective day care centers a parent may want to conduct a full investigation on before registering their children. Under the Star Quality Program, Tennessee Department of Human Services (DHS) conducts an evaluation of licensed day care centers. These evaluations are converted into a Three Star Rating. The more stars a day care center had earned means the higher the standards the day care center satisfies.

Evaluations by DHS include the review of seven different categories. The categories are: direct qualifications, professional development, developmental learning, parent/family involvement, ratio and group size, staff compensation, and a program assessment. The program assessment include DHS observing the day care center in action. Most parents would likely agree that these are some of the categories that they evaluate themselves when determining which day care center to attend.

Parents in Tennessee should be aware that not all day care centers are eligible to participate in the Star Quality Program. Day care centers are prohibited from participating in the program if the day care center has had a major civil penalty, five or more minor civil penalty, or has had issues with its license being renewed or suspended within a certain period of time.

Day care centers can also lose stars. This means that if parents have selected a day care provider with a higher star rating and the day care provider falls short of its requirements to satisfy that rating, that star rating will be revised. Parents will see that the star rating has been revised and can investigate further to determine whether they would like to continue allowing their child to attend the day care facility.

With the Star Quality Program, DHS has done some of the leg work for the parent by allowing the parent to focus on the day care providers with higher star ratings first. The stars are not only for overall performance of the day care center, but also stars are assigned for each category that is evaluated. Accordingly, parents can look at the star ratings for the categories that are most important to the parent when making the decision of which day care center to have their child attend.

Once a day care center is selected, it is the parent’s rightful expectation that a child is cared for in a manner that is professional, organized, and safe. If for some reason a child is injured while under the supervision of a day care center, the parent should reach out to a Child Injury Lawyer to discuss the child’s rights and remedies under the applicable laws in place. A good resource for parents is the book – The ABCs of Child Injury – Legal Rights of the Injured Child – What Every Parent Should Know. This book has chapters on Day Care Center Injuries, School Injuries, Playground Injuries, and other topics. You can get this book for free at The ABCs of Child Injury.

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By  David Wolf, Attorney and Samantha Vloedman, Law Clerk

Published by Child Injury Lawyer Blog

Building Blocks Glossy - P - Day Care CenterIn New York and other States, a parent finds out the true quality or better stated deficiencies with a day care center only after a child is injured or after a child died at a day care center.  A recent death of an infant made State of New York and National headlines.  The child died at an unlicensed day care center on the first day that he was under the so-called supervision of a day care center.

When a day care center is licensed, the appropriate regulatory agencies monitor the day care center and have strict requirements for maintaining the day care center’s license. These requirements vary from State to State and can include background checks on employees, proper training for all employees, and minimum required liability insurance coverage among other requirements. If a day care center does not meet these requirements, a regulatory agency can impose sanctions, up to and including revoking the license of the day care center.

Unlicensed day care centers pose a frightening problem to parents. Without a license, the State may not be aware that the day care center is operating. Accordingly, the day care center is not under the watchful eye of the appropriate regulatory agencies. This means that background checks on employees are likely not completed, training may be lacking, and the probability of the day care center have liability insurance in place is likely slim to none.

Many parents rely on the word of the day care center that it is licensed and the staff is properly trained. This reliance may happen when an unlicensed provider has been operating for many years. The parents in the New York case had this situation happen to them. The parents relied on the word of the owner of the day care center, a day care center that has been operating unlicensed for fourteen years. The parents were assured that the owner and staff were CPR certified. Tragically, the parents learned too late that the day care center was unlicensed, overcrowded, and the owner performed improper CPR on their child and he died.

When a child in injured at a day care center, parents may pursue an insurance claim or file law suits to obtain monetary damages for the injury or death of their child. If a licensed day care center is required to own liability insurance, there is a good probability that it has the requisite insurance; however, many vehicle owners are required to have insurance but fail to maintain it. As such, there is no guarantee that any facility – licensed or unlicensed – has liability insurance in place. It is certainly an excellent question for a parent to ask of a day care center Ask for a copy of the policy. If the day care center takes issue with the request, you may want to find another day care center.

When a day care center is insured, there is a funding source in place to compensate the parents of the injured child when there is a settlement or verdict awarding such damages. With unlicensed facilities, it is very unlikely that there is this funding source (insurance) or sufficient assets in place to cover or pay for a prospective settlement or verdict.

Published on:

By  David Wolf, Attorney and Samantha Vloedman, Law Clerk

Published by Child Injury Lawyer Blog

Statue of Liberty
In New York and other States, busy working parents rely on the staff and administration at day care centers to supervise their children during the work day.   Some parents select day care centers based on price and location only.  Others do a bit more homework and check out online reviews and State of New York inspection reports.  Lawmakers in New York are proposing a new rating system that would be similar in concept to that of restaurant ratings in which the rating is prominently displayed on premises.

New York State’s Quality Rating Improvement System (QRIS) is designed to promote higher quality in day care providers and services.  See New York Day Care Centers – Quality Stars Program.Any licensed day care provider can receive One Star. Additional Stars may be awarded with submission of additional documentation regarding the satisfaction of four categories used for ratings. The four categories are: Learning Environment; Family Engagement; Qualifications and Experience; and Management and Leadership. Each category has a list of subcategories for rating the day care providers. The subcategories are converted into points and then certain points lead to the number of Stars a day care provider may be awarded.

The goal of the rating system and improving the quality of day care providers is to protect children. With higher standards and a method for monitoring the standards, the instances of injuries to children should decline. For example, several subcategories that are measured for determining the environmental ratings of a day care center include space and furnishings; interactions; and parents and staff. If even one of these is lacking, a child could get injured. For instance, if the furnishings are not child friendly (have sharp corners) or are spaced too close together, a child could easily, when not properly supervised, hit his head on the sharp corner and suffer a laceration that could require stitches, a concussion, skull fracture, or other life threatening injuries.

When a child suffers injuries or dies in a New York day care center, a legal case can be pursued if the four basic elements of a cause of action can be established. The elements are as follows:

  1. Duty
  2. Breach of Duty
  3. Causation
  4. Damages

Let’s put some facts in place to illustrate the proof of these four elements. Let’s say an infant is being changed on a changing table. The child care worker leaves the infant on the table for one minute to help another child a few feet away.   The infant rolls off the table and suffers a fractured skull. The actions of the child care worker were no intentional but the actions were careless.   The child care worker had a duty to provide the infant with a safe environment and keep the child out of harm’s way. The child care worker breached this duty when she left the child unattended on a table.   This, in turn, caused the damages or injuries in the form of a skull fracture. This would be a legal case to pursue.   It would also be a practical case to pursue assuming that there was liability insurance in place or the day care center otherwise had sufficient assets to cover the damages, settlement, or verdict.

The book titled – The ABCs of Child Injury – Legal Rights of the Injured Child – What Every Parent Should Know – has chapters on Day Care Center Injuries, School Injuries, Playground Injuries, and other topics. You can get this book for free at The ABCs of Child Injury.

With the proper ratings of day care providers and periodic monitoring, instances of negligence, like the one described above, can be reduced. As more providers obtain higher Stars, the competition for the Stars will likely increase. In turn, one can suspect that overall quality and safety of children at day care providers should improve.