Enrolling your child in daycare can be a heart-wrenching but necessary action. Knowing that someone other than you will be fully responsible for your vulnerable child’s care, safety, and well-being can be a frightening thought. There are so many things to consider. Is your child being treated kindly? Is your child receiving the necessary supervision? Is your child safe?
You carefully evaluate daycare providers, and then put your faith in that provider. However, despite making every effort to choose wisely, your child can still suffer harm due to accidents and neglect.
When a child gets injured at daycare, parents have many questions. Some of the most frequent questions we get asked are:
Common Causes Of Daycare Injuries
Every day, millions of busy parents put their children in daycare. Daycare facilities offer a formal, structured environment where children can socialize and learn. Also, many parents rely on two incomes to get by financially, making daycare a necessity.
In order to ensure children are well cared for and safe while in daycare, each state has rules and regulations that facilities must follow. In South Carolina, daycare centers must be licensed, up to date with health and safety standards, and pass regular inspections.
Daycare staff must pass a background check and complete OSHA-required training. A certain number of staff members with CPR and first aid certification must always be present as well. These requirements are intended to ensure children are in a healthy and safe facility and receive proper and consistent care.
When you drop your child off at daycare, you trust the facility to take good care of your little one. But one day you pick up your child from daycare to find that he or she was injured while there.
Kids are active, curious, and not as careful as adults, making them more prone to minor bumps and bruises. But how do you know which injuries are innocent and which are a consequence of neglect or even abuse on the part of one or more daycare workers?
What Types of Accidents Occur At Daycare?
There are a wide range of accidents and injuries that can occur at a daycare facility. These include:
- Playground accidents. Falling from playground equipment is common. Without proper supervision, serious injuries can occur. If they are severe, or if they are not treated immediately and properly, consequences can be catastrophic.
- Falls. A fall can happen anywhere at a daycare facility. A child can fall down a staircase when not being watched. Or a child can trip over a toy on the floor and become injured. Young children often suffer injuries from falling off changing tables.
- Harmful ingestion. An unwatched child can get into anything quickly – including medications, pest control poisons, and more.
- Choking. A young child can choke easily and quickly on a small toy or food when someone is not watching.
- Allergic reaction. Even when you provide very clear guidelines on any allergies your child may have, an inexperienced or negligent worker may not take proper precautions. If an allergic reaction is not treated properly and immediately, it can be life-threatening.
- Motor vehicle accident. Some daycare facilities offer field trips, and accidents can and do happen if bus drivers are not properly vetted.
- Mistreatment by other children. Your child may be bullied or treated brutally by another child, and if no one is watching, the injuries can be serious.
- Negligence. Not watching a child for even a few seconds can result in tragedy. Kids have a knack for finding dangerous situations quickly when adult supervision is lacking.
- Abuse. It seems unthinkable, but reports of abuse of children by daycare operators are more common than most people realize.
What Should I Do If My Child Gets Hurt At Daycare?
The first thing to do is seek appropriate medical attention for your child. After your child has been treated or is out of danger, try to collect the facts of the case. Where and how did your child get injured? Who was supposed to be watching them? Was it a one-time incident, or part of an ongoing pattern of negligence or abuse? An experienced daycare injury attorney could help with investigation strategies.
Who is Liable When A Child Is Injured In Daycare?
This depends on the individual circumstances of the incident. If it was an officially sanctioned act or a systemic issue, the facility may be liable. If it was a specific employee’s actions that led to the injury, whether through abuse, neglect, or failing to follow safety procedures, the employee may be liable along with the facility.
Your daycare provider has a duty to provide reasonable care to your child. There are many ways a care provider may fail to meet that duty, including:
- Inappropriate caregiver to child ratio. Having too many children to watch over means neglect and accidents can happen.
- Inadequate safety standards. Failure to implement, communicate, or enforce safety rules can enable tragic accidents to occur.
- Insufficient training. Childcare providers in many daycare facilities are often young and inexperienced. If they are not trained properly, your child can suffer the consequences.
- Inadequate administration of food, water, or essential medication. If your child is neglected, he or she may not receive even basic necessities.
- Lack of appropriate bathroom facilities. Without supervision, there are a wide variety of accidents that can occur in a bathroom, especially one that is not designed for children.
- Improper supervision. So many things can happen when children lack appropriate supervision. For example, a child can wander out a side door and onto a highway.
- Inappropriate screening of personnel. This can result in child abuse.
Proving a Daycare is Responsible for a Child’s Injuries
Many daycare centers include an indemnification clause in their release form, which states that they are released from all liability for any injuries a child may suffer while under their care. However, this clause is typically considered to be against public policy and it therefore often does not hold up in court.
Parents may bring a personal injury claim against the daycare’s insurance company to recover compensation for their child’s injuries. To prevail, they must be able to prove that the daycare facility was negligent. Negligence is established by showing that:
- the daycare center had a duty of care to do everything that a prudent daycare center would reasonably do to protect children under its care from harm; however
- the daycare center breached that duty of care; and
- the breach was the direct and proximate cause of the child’s injuries; and
- that breach caused the child to be injured (for which medical evidence must be provided).
Daycare facilities cannot be held liable for unforeseeable events or for injuries sustained due to the negligence of a third party. An example of this would be in the case that a child was injured because of a defective product. The daycare operator will only be liable if it was directly responsible for the child’s injuries, which must be supported by medical bills and records, witness statements, photographs, and other forms of documentation.
Damages for Injuries Sustained at Daycare
To prevail in a daycare injury case, it must be shown that the child suffered some form of injury. It is therefore important for parents to obtain copies of all medical bills for treatments relating to the injury and keep track of all out-of-pocket expenses, as they may be compensable. Daycare injury claims involving multiple parties can become especially complicated, therefore it is advisable that parents speak with an attorney before signing any settlement agreements to make sure that their child’s rights are protected.
Can I Sue a Daycare For Negligence In South Carolina?
To sue a daycare provider for negligence, you must establish that the facility failed to maintain a reasonable duty of care. That is, something happened to your child that the daycare provider could have prevented if they had operated responsibly. For instance, a facility could be liable for failing to maintain safety devices like gates, or neglecting to ensure playground equipment is safe.
The basis of the claim may be negligence or intentional tort – the daycare provider must have either negligently or intentionally caused injury to the child.
To prove that the daycare was negligent, it must be shown that the daycare facility breached its duty of care to the child. If a child was under the care, supervision, or guidance of the daycare facility, then the daycare facility owed the child a duty of due care to take reasonable steps to protect him or her from foreseeable harm. A breach of this duty can happen in several ways, including:
- Failing to provide a child with basic necessities, such as food, water, or medication
- Improper supervision or caregiver-to-child ratio
- Inadequate screening or training of employees
- Unsafe premises
Once it has been established that the daycare facility breached its duty of care, claimants must then show that the breach of that duty caused the child’s injury. Such causation may be established by showing that but for the daycare facility’s negligence, the child’s injury would not have occurred.
The daycare facility will only be liable if it was the proximate cause of the child’s injuries, meaning that there were no unforeseeable intervening events that contributed to the injuries. Finally, evidence of physical or emotional harm must be presented in order to receive damages for the child’s injuries.
Intentional Tort Cases Against Daycare Providers
Sometimes, children are intentionally harmed by daycare providers. In those cases, parents or guardians may file an intentional tort case against the provider. Some examples of intentional torts include:
- Child abuse
- Intentional infliction of emotional distress
- Wrongful death
Parents should be cautious if they are presented with an offer from the daycare facility’s insurance carrier. It is advisable to seek the counsel of a qualified local attorney before signing or agreeing to anything to ensure that the child’s rights are protected and that you receive the maximum compensation to which you are entitled.
Signs It’s Time To Contact a Daycare Injury Lawyer
Daycares should be safe places where children are treated respectfully and lovingly by skilled workers. Unfortunately, some daycare environments can lead to serious harm of children. Whether injuries are physical, psychological, sexual, or a combination of all three, their after-effects can last a lifetime.
Families who notice any of the following signs of potential child care provider neglect, recklessness, or intentional harm should consider contacting a daycare injury lawyer as soon as possible. Obtaining representation from a lawyer well-versed in matters involving daycare negligence can help parents, grandparents, and other guardians highlight this serious problem and stop it from occurring to other families.
Most children will occasionally display reluctance during drop-off at daycare. In fact, a little resistance can be normal. However, when crying becomes an everyday occurrence, or a child begs to stop going to the daycare, it could be an indication that something is wrong.
While this sign alone is not enough to allege daycare neglect, a child’s unusual mood swings should always be watched and documented. This is especially true if the child progressively shows greater fear about going to daycare, or if he or she suddenly withdraws at home or school.
Daycare Facility is Disorganized, Unclean, and/or Dangerous
Did you get an uncomfortable feeling the first time you walked into your child’s daycare? Perhaps you noticed that toys were cluttering the floor, or that cleaning supplies were on a countertop within reach of toddlers. These are signs that the daycare may not put emphasis on child safety.
Remember that a daycare with too many children and not enough workers is in violation of the state’s child-to-worker ratio. In South Carolina, the ratio for infants under one year should be one worker for every five infants. As children get older, the ratio increases.
Unusual Marks on Your Child
If your child comes home with marks, such as a bruises, cuts, or scratches, and the daycare workers cannot explain why, there may be a safety issue at hand. Even if the injuries are coming from other children or a violent child, it means the children are not being properly watched. The facility owners may not be actively hurting your child, but their negligence could end up leading to a tragedy. If you sense that your child has been shaken or treated abusively by staff or other children, you should not feel shy about talking to a lawyer.
Your Child Acts in a Sexual Manner
Children who are sexually abused tend to be more aggressive or act out sexually. They may even verbally discuss sexual concepts that are not age-appropriate. This is a serious red flag. Act immediately by making an appointment with your family doctor or pediatrician. No child deserves to be sexually assaulted by another child or an adult.
Columbia Daycare Injury Lawyers at Chappell Smith & Arden, P.A. Fight to Hold Negligent Daycare Operators Accountable
If your child has experienced neglect or injury at a daycare facility, you may be filled with anger and worry. You may even blame yourself, even though you did your best in selecting proper care. During this difficult time, it is important to turn to qualified legal professionals for help.
The experienced legal team at Chappell Smith & Arden, P.A. could perform a thorough investigation and hold accountable those whose negligence or wrongdoing resulted in an injury to your child, working tirelessly to build the strongest case possible. Call (803) 674-4977 or (803) 929-3600 to arrange a free consultation with a dedicated and highly skilled Columbia daycare injury lawyer or contact us online.
We represent clients in Columbia, Aiken, Camden, Sumter, Orangeburg, Greenville, Florence, Beaufort, Irmo, Spartanburg, Myrtle Beach, Hilton Head Island, West Columbia, Rock Hill, Charleston, Lexington, Winnsboro, Summerville, and throughout the areas of Lexington County, Richland County, Sumter County, Charleston County, Aiken County, Florence County, Lancaster County, York County, Spartanburg County, Orangeburg County, Kershaw County, and Newberry County.