Justia Legal Guides: Child Safety Center

Most parents devote lots of time, energy, and expense to keeping their children as safe as possible. Children are naturally curious, and they may not understand all the risks of their surroundings. Moreover, adults or other children may harm a child through careless behavior or intentional wrongdoing. At Justia, we understand the immense responsibility involved in raising a child. We recently added a Child Safety center to our Justia Legal Guides, covering the risks that children may face in a variety of settings. These range from the family home and the child’s school to the cars in which they travel and their activities on the internet.

In addition to explaining some of the precautions that parents can consider, the Child Safety center outlines the legal claims that parents may bring against people or businesses that harmed their children. These usually fall within the area of personal injury law. If parents succeed in their claim, they can potentially recover damages for costs like medical treatment for the child and their pain and suffering.

Home Safety

Baby Smiling

Probably the most common place where children get hurt, ironically, is the place where parents may feel that they are safest: the home. Parents may want to childproof their home to make it safer for a small child. This might involve installing safety devices on windows to prevent falls and anchoring furniture to prevent it from falling onto a child. Parents with a swimming pool at home should put a fence around the pool. If they live in an old building, they should stay alert to signs of lead exposure, which is particularly dangerous to children. Parents should secure any firearms to prevent a child’s access. They should pay attention to safety warnings on toys or other children’s products.

Even if parents take all of the reasonable precautions, though, a child still may be injured if a children’s product or another item was defective. Parents then can sue the manufacturer of the product or any business in the chain of distribution. These claims often use a theory of strict liability, which can make it easier to establish fault than in a standard personal injury claim.

In other cases, a child might have been injured because someone improperly installed equipment or inadequately maintained the home. For example, a landlord might have failed to address a risk of carbon monoxide exposure, or faulty wiring might have caused an electric shock incident. When this happens, parents could hold a defendant liable by proving that they were negligent. This means that their failure to use reasonable care harmed the child.

School Safety

Man Helping Children to Cross the Street

Parents have a right to expect that their child’s school will take reasonable precautions to keep their child safe. Unfortunately, injuries occur all too often from slip and falls on hazardous property at schools or from defective equipment provided by the school. Parents may be able to sue the school for a slip and fall, while they might sue the manufacturer (and possibly the school as well) for injuries caused by defective equipment. If a child gets injured on a field trip, parents might have a claim against the business that controlled the property where the field trip occurred. Although school buses are generally safe, parents may have claims against the driver of the bus and their employer, among other defendants, when an accident occurs.

Some injuries in a school setting involve violence or other forms of intentional misconduct. For example, bullying has become a pervasive problem in many schools. When another student bullies their child, parents may be able to sue the school if it did not respond to complaints of bullying or tacitly tolerated the behavior. If a teacher or another school employee bullied their child, parents might have claims against both the employee and the school. Suing a public school can be tricky, though, since laws often limit the claims that can be brought against them.

Vehicle Safety

Woman With Her Baby on a Cradle

Anyone can suffer serious injuries in a car accident, but children may face greater risks than adults because their bodies are still developing. Meanwhile, teenagers tend to drive less safely than adult drivers, since they are less experienced and more prone to distractions. Parents can sue anyone who was at fault for their child’s injuries in a car accident, whether this is a teenage friend, a driver of another vehicle, or a manufacturer of a defective car seat or car part.

Some accidents involve vehicles other than cars. For example, children often ride bicycles for recreation and exercise. An inattentive driver may not see the small profile of a bicycle, and the lack of structural protection increases the risk of injuries. An outing on the water poses the risk of a boating accident when someone operates a boat carelessly, or when a boat is defective.

Online Safety

Two Kids Searching on the Internet

Parents often have trouble keeping track of their children’s activities when they venture onto the internet. They may want to monitor children’s social media use and time spent playing video games to avert the potential health risks that these activities can cause. Parents also may want to talk to an adolescent or teen about sexting, which is when children transmit sexually explicit photos or videos. This sometimes can lead to criminal charges, even if it was consensual.

Federal laws protect the online privacy of children, who offer inviting targets to scammers perpetrating identity theft because children have no credit history, and the theft may go unnoticed for longer. Unscrupulous adults like sexual predators may take advantage of a child online, or they may suffer from cyberbullying by peers or strangers. Even if a prosecutor does not charge a perpetrator, parents may be able to bring a civil claim. The lower standard of proof in civil cases makes it easier to establish liability.

Final Thoughts

A parent of an injured child may have important legal rights. They should not hesitate to assert them. A parent may want to consult a personal injury lawyer, who can provide advice on whether they may have a claim, whom they might be able to sue, and the compensation that they could potentially recover. In the meantime, the Child Safety center at Justia provides a basic overview of issues that parents may want to know. It aims to make the law transparent and accessible to all.

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