Articles Posted in Wrongful Death

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Neighborhood-300x224Every year, there are numerous reports of infants or toddlers mistakenly being left in hot cars resulting in their untimely death. Children have mistakenly been left in hot cars usually from their parents forgetting to drop them off by a day care center on their way to work. The temperature inside a vehicle during hot and warm weather months easily escalates to the point that a child dies from extreme heat. One moment of inattention can lead to lifetimes of loss and hurt for families and communities. There are measures that can be taken to reduce hot car deaths; the National Safety Council reported that 51 children nationwide died in 2019 after being left in hot cars. Heat stroke has been named the leading cause of non-crash, vehicle-related deaths in children under the age of 15. Certainly, the overall goal or mission should be an annual report that cites the number of hot car deaths at zero.

In efforts to reduce the number of deaths, Alabama lawmakers are working to pass a bill named after an 11-month-old boy who died last year after being left in the back seat of a car with his sister. The Cash Edwin Jordan Act would require daycares statewide to call a child’s parent or guardian if the child has not been dropped off by 9:30 each morning. This would apply to all daycares in the state, regardless of if they are public or private, and should not be too difficult to implement. The hope is that parents of children who are out for health reasons would give daycares advance notice, making the calling system an easy and efficient solution.

Parents and caregivers can also work to prevent hot car deaths by leaving essential items like cell phones, wallets, or ID cards in the backseat. Adults can also make a habit from checking the back seat of their cars before walking away and by reminding children that cars should not be used for games like hide-and-seek. Car keys should always be out of a child’s reach and cars should be locked at all times. Phone alarms can also be set for a driver’s time of arrival to remind them to check their back seat before leaving.

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Crosswalk-Personal-Injuries-169x300In Utah and other States, children are the unfortunate victims of the negligent, distracted, and / or drunk drivers that cause serious personal injuries and in some cases wrongful death. Certainly, drivers should slow down in school zones, at bus stops, and at parks.  Drivers should also proceed with caution when a child is in or near a crosswalk or intersection.  Tragically, children continue to be the victims of careless drivers on a daily basis.  When a child is injured, a criminal case can be pursued against the negligent driver if the careless driver amounted to a crime in the form of DUI or other forms of reckless conduct.  Justice demands that action is taken in these cases.  There may also be a civil case pursued against the negligent driver. It should be noted that there are many practical consideration that come into play when an attorney reviews a potential civil case for potential legal representation.  One such consideration focuses on the availability of automobile insurance to cover the damages claimed by the injury victim and the family of the injury victim.  Here are the various types of insurance that may apply:
Personal Injury Protection.  In States in which insurance carriers offer such coverage, PIP can provide in most instances up to $10,000 for medical bills and wage losses.  PIP benefits are often paid from a parent’s automobile insurance policy.  For instance, if a child is hit by a negligent driver, the medical bills may still be processed under the PIP portion of the policy of the parent(s) of the child.  PIP can apply even though the parent’s vehicle was not involved in the crash.
Medical Payment Coverage.  This coverage works similar to PIP coverage.  The medical bills may be processed or paid by the insurance policy of the injured child’s parent.  If no such coverage applies, the Medical Payment and / or PIP benefits may be obtained from the at-fault driver’s policy.  This will depend on the insurance policy language as well as the insurance laws in place for the State where the incident / accident took place.
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Building-Blocks-300x271Day care centers should be safe havens. For most children, a typical day at a child care center involves some adventure, snacks, and, yes, that all important nap.  Unfortunately, and tragically for some toddlers, they do not return home at all following a visit to a child care center.  These children do not return home because they died due to the neglect of a day care center.  There is nothing worse for a parent than to bury a child. Nightmares turn into realities.  One such place that tragedies take place is the unlicensed day care center.  In most cases, the unlicensed day care center lacks any appreciable assets or liability insurance.  As such, while a legal action or lawsuit can be filed against the day care center, the collectability of a potential settlement or verdict is highly unlikely to improbable to impossible.  In other words, a strong legal case against a defendant does not mean that there is an economically viable defendant to collect from.

This past July an incident occurred within an unlicensed Tennessee daycare leaving twin babies died. The day care center operator was indicted on two counts of criminally negligent homicide in connection with the death of the two children. The parents of the children filed a wrongful death lawsuit last month seeking compensation of over 50 million dollars. While this seems like a substantial case and demand, a victory in court will most likely be a hollow one since any verdict will probably be uncollectible.  As a general statement, unlicensed day care centers are typically operated by people who cut corners and who do not follow rules.  Furthermore, unlicensed day care centers are usually operated by individuals who have little to no assets to collect upon when there is a sizable verdict against the facility.

Parents should check to see if a day care center is licensed and insured.  While these are not the only factors to consider, if the day care center lacks a license or insurance, it can be a red flag to stay away from that day care center and find one with both liability insurance and licensure in place.  When evaluating a potential case against a day care center, one of the first factors considered is the availabilty and amount of liability insurance.  While a day care center may be legally liable for damages related to personal injuries or death to a child, this does not mean that the day care center owner will ultimately be able to pay out a settlement or verdict rendered in favor of the injured child.

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Swimming-and-Drowing-Risks-300x244During the summer months, swimming is a wonderful activity for children.  It can also be a dangerous one. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, drowning is listed as the top cause of death for children ages one to four years old.  For older children ranging in age from five to nineteen years old, drowning is listed as the third leading cause of death.

There are several precautions a parent can take to protect their children from drowning. Children near open bodies of water, like lakes or beaches, should wear life vests. However, of the almost one thousand child drownings each year, the majority of these occur in home backyard pools. First, there should always be a supervising adult near swimming children. Many parents and homeowners decide it is best to construct a fence around their pool in order to physically separate young children from the water, and studies show that “four-sided fencing with a locking gate… prevents more than half of swimming pool deaths in children.” The CDC recommends a fence at least four feet high. In the event of a child falling into a pool or other body of water, parents should take care to learn CPR.

One preventative measure which has garnered a bit of attention in the last few years is youth swimming lessons—starting as young as a year old. The reason for this early start is twofold—first, infants can drown in bodies of water much smaller than a swimming pool, like a bathtub or even a bucket of water, and, second, the lessons prepare young children in case they accidentally fall into a swimming pool. The Consumer Product Safety Commission says almost seventy percent of drowning victims under the age of five were not expected to be in the water. For this reason, youth swimming lessons are focused on familiarization with water, being able to breach the surface and tread water or looking for floatation devices. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends swim lessons for children between the years of one and four, and the USA Swimming Foundation reports that lessons can reduce the risk of drowning by almost ninety percent. Parents should make sure that, when enrolling their children in a swimming course, the teachers are properly trained and that there are lifeguards on duty.

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Pool-Safety-240x300With a mobile phone or tablet in our hands most of the day, we now live in a world of almost endless distractions. While technology is wonderful and helpful, it also makes certain activities a bit more dangerous for children.  Whenever a child is in or near water, there is a danger or risk of drowning. Adult supervision is key to the safety of children; however, the presence of an adult in the water area is a bit different than the attention of an adult.  If the adult is physically present in the area of the pool or beach, the physical presence may not mean much if the adult is otherwise engaged in the latest text, tweet, or e-mail on the phone or tablet.  Because of this, it is important to have as top of mind awareness the safety needs of the children.

Nearly 7 out of 10 drownings occur while an adult is present. In a life and death situation, people need to be alert and aware of their surroundings. However, the pool presents a myriad of distractions; if a person is swimming in the pool, they can be surrounded by splashing and other people, which could take their attention away from the child they are supposed to be watching. And, even if the watcher is out of the pool, they could be reading a book or looking at their phone at the precise moment they need to step into action and prevent a drowning. But drownings are almost always preventable; in fact, it is the leading preventable cause of death for children under the age of 5. So what steps must one take in order to prevent a child from drowning?

Among the most important preventions one can take is to have a Designated Watcher whose sole purpose is to keep an eye on the people in the pool. These people are reminded to not look at their phones or other distractions and not leave the pool area unless another person replaces them. While a Watcher is the best preventative measure, there are other choices one can make to improve pool safety. Installing a gate around the pool would keep small children from running into the water and drowning before an adult can intervene. It also helps to have a number of flotation devices, like pool noodles or kickboards, that can be thrown into the pool for a child to grab onto. If these measures are implemented, children will be markedly more safe in the pool this summer.

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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.

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Day-Care-Centr-Blocks-300x194In Texas and other States, children are the unfortunate and tragic victims of day care center abuse, neglect, and carelessness.  When a child is harmed in the form of personal injuries, there may be a case or claim pursued on behalf of the injured child for compensation or damages.  This is commonly referred to as a personal injury insurance claim or civil case. It should be noted that a civil case is different than a criminal case.  

A criminal case is pursued by local law enforcement and the prosecutor or district attorney.  When there is a crime committed whether it is intentional conduct or grossly reckless conduct, the criminal case focuses on the crime committed rather than the ability to collect compensation or monetary damages from the criminal defendant or day care center operator.  The successful pursuit of the criminal case also does not depend on the existence or amount of liability insurance coverage. 

A civil case is pursued by the family of the injured child through the services of a Child Injury Lawyer.  From a legal standpoint, there are four elements to establish in a civil case:

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By David A. Wolf, Attorney

Child Injury Lawyer Blog

Baby-Elements-Blue-Icons-copy-300x282In Virginia and other states, many parents rely upon day care centers to watch over their children during the work day.  Many such day care centers are connected to or affiliated with a church or religious institution. Unfortunately in many states, there are limited to no government oversight of religious or church run day care centers because there are loopholes and exemptions in state law that opt a church run or religious day care center out of the applicable day care center regulations.  As such, many day care centers go unregulated and often engage in negligent or dangerous behavior due to the lack of training and government oversight of the facility.  As such, many church run or religious based day care centers may seem safe and well run on the outside are actually riddled with dangers and risks on the inside.
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By David A. Wolf, Attorney – Child Injury Lawyer Blog

Toy Train.001In Utah and other states, day care centers have a duty to provide a reasonably safe educational environment for the children enrolled in the program.  It is important that the day care center follow all licensing requirements and have trained staff in place to meet the needs of the children. Supervision  and attentiveness are vital to the safety and welfare of the children.  The level of supervision will depend on the type of facility, number of children, age of the children, special needs of the children, time of the day, activity and other factors.  There are dangers lurking at all times that an infant or toddler is being cared for in a day care center. It is vital for staff members to be aware of the dangers and remove or prevent all such dangerous situations to the best of the ability and foresight of the day care center.

A recent tragedy was reported in at a West Jordan, Utah day care center.  It as reported that a toddler – Leonardo “Leo” Sanchez – crawled under a bean bag and ultimately suffocated.  A seemingly simple object – a bean bag chair – turned out to be a very dangerous object in a day care center for a small child like Leo Sanchez.  It is well known that small children are curious and will crawl into or go into areas which can be quite dangerous.  Another dangerous situation or object for a toddler or infant in a day care center is an unanchored dresser or TV stand.  There have been a number of reports of children being injured or even dying as a result of a dresser, TV stand, or TV that has fallen over on top of a child.  Sleeping and napping time can also present dangers as well to infants.  A stuffed animal or blanket can cause a child to suffocate during this otherwise seemingly safe part of a day care center.

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By David A. Wolf, Attorney – Child Injury Lawyer Blog

book-abcOne basic duty of every day care center is the duty of supervision. Many day care centers are located on her near busy roadways, streets, neighborhoods, and commercial developments.  As such, the duty to supervise the children is vital the health, safety, and welfare of the children enrolled in the day care program. In some instances, a child is unharmed when he or she wanders away from a day care center.  An astute bystander or police officer locates the child and returns the child to the day care center.  While the situation could have escalated into something quite horrible, the child did not receive any injuries and soon forgets about the whole incident.  On the other hand, there are incidents involving the wandering of a child away from a day care center that results in serious personal injuries and even the tragic death of the child. One such incident took place in Olathe, Kansas when a child was hit and killed by a pick up truck. The incident took place on a residential street in a vicinity near the the day care center.  The news report identified the toddler as Harper Kay Rodden.  In initial news reports, there were no details as to how the 14 month toddler had exited the day care center, how the 14 month old toddler was supervised prior to exiting the facility, what safeguards were in place for the protection and safety of the children, and what steps could have or should have been taken to protect this child from wandering out of the day care center facility.
In a day care center case, there are essentially four elements to prove:
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