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What if a Child Suffers Injuries or Dies in a New York Day Care Center?

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.