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book-abcIn communities throughout the United States, trampoline park businesses are springing up.  What seems like a safe, indoor activity can actually be quite a hazard to young children.  What makes things worse is that many of these businesses require a release to be signed by parents and guardians for children.  Some of the releases are valid; some are not. It depends on the language of the release, circumstances of the incident, and the laws of the state where the trampoline park is located.

In 2017, almost 18,000 people went to the emergency room due to injuries obtained at a trampoline park. The bulk of these injuries are explained by one thing—an unsafe transfer of energy. All the trampolines are connected, so the energy created from bouncing transfers through all the trampolines. When a child bounces, they can be launched higher than anticipated and land back on a surface which could be at a different height than anticipated. This transfer of energy can result in nearly 1,000 pounds of pressure, which can break any bone in a person’s body. There have been at least 6 deaths at trampoline parks since 2012.

Trampoline parks in the United States currently have no federal oversight, so every park is unique. While the majority of the businesses have patrons sign a release waiver, they can be different from park to park. These waivers typically address risks that are inherent to trampoline activities, like a sprained ankle. However, some parks do not even require a waiver. However, just signing a waiver does not always effectively preclude a parent from filing a lawsuit on behalf of the injured child for the personal injuries.  In the State of Florida, there exceptions for waivers signed by minors. For minors, those documents may be limited to non-commercial situations, such as charity or school events. Because trampoline parks are for-profit businesses, the waivers provided by them may not be enforceable.  If you or your child are injured at a trampoline park, contact an injury attorney for consultation or representation.

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Dresser-Tipping-Danger-191x300There is a common danger in homes, day care centers, and schools.  What would often appear as a safe environment really is not.  The danger presents itself in the form of unanchored furniture.  This danger can lead to serious personal injuries and even the death of a child. When furniture is manufactured and distributed, there should be an expectation on the part of the manufacturers, distributors, and retail stores that this very items will be placed in homes, day care centers, and schools where children may be present. As such, it is important that the furniture if manufactured in a way that makes the furniture safe and steady rather than a hazard in which a terrible tragedy could happen on any given day.

It has been reported by Consumer Product Safety Commission that over 300,000 furniture chests were recalled after a child was killed by an unanchored chest. It is reported that as many as 70 children every day are injured by fallen furniture and, every two weeks, fallen furniture results in the death of one child. Chests, desks, and cabinets can tip over if a child climbs on it and the piece is not secured or made properly. However, it’s not just climbing that can result in danger. In some cases, a piece of furniture can fall over if too many drawers are open.

The responsibility falls upon the manufacturer of the furniture to ensure that, even if unanchored, their pieces do not actively pose a danger to children. Some articles of furniture come pre-weighted so that consumers do not have to weight it to make it more safe. There is also a responsibility that on the part of the distributors and retail stores, like Target and Walmart. If distributors and retailers are aware of any past injustices or injuries caused by a certain manufacturer’s furniture, they should refrain from distributing them. The ultimate responsibility belongs to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, or CPSC. They decide what products get recalled and when. If unweighted furniture seriously injures or kills one child, the CPSC should take action as quickly as possible to get it out of people’s homes.

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In pursuing a case or claim for a bounce house injury, there are four elements to establish:

Duty;
Breach of Duty;
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Hospital-Injuries-from-Fall-300x231There is a dangerous location in homes and day care centers that may not be so obvious. The location involves soft furniture like a sofa or bed. An infant or toddler left on a bed or sofa can suffer a fall, which can result in head injuries, extremity injuries and other injuries. The statistics from such injuries are quite alarming. Unfortunately, many parents, babysitters, and child care providers do not recognize the dangers of a fall from soft furniture until there is an injury or incident.

Newly released statistics demonstrate that falls from seemingly safe, soft furniture—like couches and beds—have now become the number one cause of injury for children ages four and under in the United States. Falls from soft furniture also present the leading cause of trauma for infants in the United States. These statistics, originally presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics’ annual conference this year, come from an aggregation of data from emergency rooms over the past decade. Analysis of these statistics reveals that injuries from soft furniture falls occur at more than double the rate of the second leading cause of injury to children younger than five years old—stairs. Analysis also indicates that boys tend to sustain these injuries more frequently than girls and that younger children present a greater risk of injury than older children.

Despite these alarming statistics, precautions can help reduce the rates of these injuries. Kids Health, a division of Nemours Children’s Hospital, recommends various techniques to reduce the likelihood of a child sustaining injuries from beds and sofas. These recommendations include: never leaving children unattended on soft furniture, removing children from soft furniture if one must leave for even a moment, holding children while on soft furniture if one uses a phone or another object that may distract from complete supervision, implementing bed rails, and teaching children how to properly climb on and off of soft furniture safely once they reach an appropriate age to learn this. Adults should also learn CPR and keep a first aid kit handy, just in case a child falls and sustains injuries. See Falls from Soft Furniture – Safety Precautions. 

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In day care centers in Wisconsin and throughout the rest of the nation, there is a population of children at risk for harm when placed in a day care center – infants. Working parents rely upon day care centers to provide a safe haven for their children. These parents do not have much of a choice due to work, financial, and personal constraints of life. A dedicated and professionally trained nanny would be nice but most people cannot afford such a luxury. While most infants placed in day care centers do just fine, others suffer personal injuries and even death in the very environment where the children are supposed to be safe and well cared for.

A recent tragedy in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin exemplifies the sad reality of these incidents. News reports indicate that a ten-year-old girl attending the same day care as a six-month-old baby boy allegedly abused a child after dropping him while holding him. It was reported that the young girl admitted to stomping on the baby’s head because the baby began to cry after she accidentally dropped the baby. Consequently, the infant sustained serious head trauma and died in the hospital two days later.

At the time of the infant’s tragic death, one adult and two other children were present at the daycare. This raises questions about supervision requirements in childcare facilities and the other safety requirements necessary in such places. The Early Childhood Knowledge and Learning Center recommends active supervision of all children in childcare locations, especially infants. It asserts that an adult should be accessible and supervising all children at all times. In order to achieve this, the Early Childhood Knowledge and Learning Center suggests that childcare facilities plan out staff positioning in rooms, continually scan and count the children in the room, listen for signs of danger, anticipate children’s behavior, and set up an environment conducive to all children remaining in the constant sight of an adult. Childcare centers should also separate children of differing age groups.  See Day Center Supervision Recommendations.

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School-Bus-Safety-300x126In Georgia and other states, there is a daily weekday routine that all drivers should be well aware of – children crossing the street prior to loading a school bus OR after unloading from a school bus. Most buses are a bright yellow color with stop signal arms and flashing lights. Despite the obvious visual presence of a school bus, school bus zones, street signage, and traffic signals, there are still pedestrian accidents and school bus accidents that cause serious injuries to children. Tragically, some children die as a result of these incidents.

A recent accident in Georgia demonstrates the unfortunate reality of these tragedies. News reports indicate that one child died and another child sustained serious injuries when a car hit them as they crossed a road to board their school bus. It was reported that the car hit the two brothers because the driver attempted to pass their idling school bus even though the school bus had its stop signs out.  It was reported that the driver had a suspended license.

Unfortunately, incidents of this nature occur all too frequently. According to statistics released by Stanford Children’s Hospital, twenty-four percent of all school bus injuries occur when students enter or exit a school bus. Additionally, the ten-foot radius around a school bus constitutes a “danger zone.” In the danger zone, children are two times more likely to die than they are likely to die in a traffic accident on the school bus. Thus, it is more dangerous for a child to be near a school bus than it is for them to ride a school bus. See Stanford Children’s Hospital – How Safe Is School Bus Travel. 

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At most restaurants in New York and throughout the country, children are welcome guests. When operating and managing a restaurant, it is important for the management and staff to pay attention to the needs of children as well as any dangers that may be present to a child that may not be a danger to an adult. At a restaurant, the business has a duty to act in a reasonable and safe manner. If there is a dangerous condition on the premises, the staff has a duty to correct the problem or at least put warning signs / cones around the area of danger. When serving food, it is important that the staff act in a reasonable and safe manner. At times, food is spilled, especially hot food, which, in turn, causes serious injuries to an adult or child customer of the restaurant.

An incident that took place in Queens, New York demonstrates how a  brief moment it takes for a nice outing at a restaurant can turn into a tragedy. It was reported that a seventeen-month-old baby sustained severe burns when scalding hot water fell on him at a restaurant after a waiter placed a cup containing hot water on the family’s table. The heat of the water stripped the skin off of a large portion of the baby’s stomach. It also fell onto his arms and legs. Furthermore, news reports indicate that restaurant employees initially tried to get ointment and napkins for the burns, so no one called 911 until over twenty minutes after the injury.

The burn injuries sustained by the little boy in Queens exemplify just one of the many ways that children may sustain injuries in a restaurant. Other common types of injuries to children in restaurants are: bruises and broken bones from falling out of booths, chairs, booster seats, and high chairs; lacerations and cuts from knives left near a child; injuries in play lands, play grounds, or play structures on the property of a restaurant; and slip and fall injuries from unclean surfaces or other hazards in the restaurant.

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Day-Care-Sleep-Practices-300x195One would think that the safest place for a child to be at a day care center is in a crib or sleeping area. In actuality, the crib or sleeping area in a day care center could be quite a dangerous place for a child. In fact, some children even die while being supervised in a crib or sleeping area in a day care center. Actually, the so called supervision is lacking. In addition, the term “supervision” is an overstatement in these situations. In actuality, the supervision is wholly lacking. The simple but dangerous act of putting a blanket or a soft stuffed animal in the crib or sleeping area of the child can lead to catastrophic results in the form of serious personal injuries and even the death of a child.

An incident out of Tennessee demonstrates how something as peaceful and innocent as nap time can quickly turn injurious. It was reported that a nine-month-old baby was found sweating profusely and tied up by a sheet in a pack n’ play crib at his daycare center. The day care reportedly indicated that it used the blanket to restrain the infant during nap time, in order to prevent the baby from “wallowing” around while he slept. According to the news reports, use of a blanket in the sleeping quarters of a baby violates existing safety procedures in place at day cares. The Department of Human Services found other infants napping at this day care covered in blankets upon investigating the center after the parents of the nine-month-old reported the incident.

Events like these must be taken seriously because of the dangers bedding presents to small children. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, blankets and pillows present special risks to babies that they do not present to adults or even older children. For example, an average of thirty-two babies die each year from pillows because of the suffocation risk they present. Pillows can block the nose and mouth of a baby, who unlike an adult or an older child, may not be able to move or roll over to get oxygen. Accordingly, pillows are not recommended for children under one and a half years of age. Blankets and toys present a similar risk as well as the additional risk of becoming wrapped around a child’s neck. Use of pillows, blankets, and toys also create a cluttered sleeping space for a baby; studies show a cluttered sleeping space increases the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, also known as SIDS, which causes infants to pass away in their sleep. Thus, practicing safe sleep techniques with infants is critical. See Consumer Product Safety Commission – Safe Sleeping Tips.

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Public-School-Negligence-300x262In Oklahoma and other states, parents rely on schools and day care centers to be places of learning and safe havens. Unfortunately, far too many teachers, day care centers, administrators, and principals misuse their positions of responsibility and end up harming children under their care. At times, the harm results from a moment of agitation and irritation on behalf of the child care provider / teacher. At other times, the abuse, neglect, and / or corporal punishment results from a more systematic and calculated form of retribution or corporal punishment. Some school districts still allow for corporal punishments, while others strictly outlaw this outdated from of child discipline. If a child has been subjected to abuse, neglect, or corporal punishment, there may be a case or cause of action to pursue on behalf of the injured child.

A recent incident out of Indianola, Oklahoma exemplifies a scenario where a principal disciplined students using corporal methods in a school district that still permits punishments of this nature. News outlets reported that the principal of a public school instituted corporal punishment to  two children, ages ten and eleven, in the form of a paddle as punishment for arguing. The policy of the school district allows the school to “swat,” also known as spank, students as long as the school has permission from the parents to do so. In this situation, the parents felt the school went too far with the discipline because the children had bruises, lacerations, and welts as well as trouble sitting and standing after the discipline occurred.

While incidents of this nature may seem rare, the National Education Association indicates that nineteen states still permit corporal punishment, usually through paddling. According to statistics from the 2011-2012 school year, the National Education Association also asserts that approximately 163,000 students face corporal punishments annually. Alarmingly, statistics also reveal a racial disparity in the students subjected to corporal discipline in schools as well as a bias towards corporally disciplining students with disabilities. In some districts, students of minority races are 500% more likely to be struck than white students, even though these school districts tend to have more white students than minority students. Furthermore, students with disabilities are up to 67% more likely to face corporal punishment than other students in their school districts. Thus, corporal punishment occurs with some frequency in schools across the country and sometimes exhibits bias against protected classes of students.  See National Education Association – Corporal Punishment in Schools.

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In New York and other states, people wisely hire limousine and bus companies for parties, events, and celebrations. Rather than drink and then get behind the wheel of a vehicle, the safer way to travel is to have a professional, trained driver handle the transportation. However, at times, commercial drivers fail to pay attention to road conditions, traffic, traffic signals, and /or signage and end up being responsible and liable for a crash that injures and, in some instances, kills passengers. It is important for all drivers to remain alert, keep distractions to a minimum, and concentrate on the legal duties and responsibilities of operating a motor vehicle, van, bus, limousine, or other vehicle transporting passengers.

Nonetheless, even professional drivers get into accidents.

The recent tragedy in Schoharie, New York exemplifies this. It was reported that twenty people died when a limousine driver ran a stop sign and crashed into a parked car. All eighteen people in the limousine died, including the driver, as well as two pedestrians. This crash, dubbed the deadliest transportation accident in almost a decade, demonstrates just one of the many accidents involving commercial drivers in the past year.