Can I Sue if My Child Is Injured on a Public Playground?

Friday, December 22, 2017

Can I Sue if My Child Is Injured on a Public Playground?

Written by Malman Law, reviewed by Steve J. Malman.

Children are accident prone, and just about every parent knows that fact. When you are with your child at a playground, you expect them to come back with a scrape or bruise from their adventure. What you do not expect, however, is a serious accident that could have long-term consequences.

Playgrounds seem innocent enough, but accidents happen. Whether it is a scrape, bruise, burn, or serious injury, more than 200,000 children are injured every year on playgrounds according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

If your child was injured at a playground, what legal options do you have?

Injuries on a playground can happen. As a parent, it is best that you understand your legal options so that if the unexpected occurs, you know where to turn.

How Often Do Playground Injuries Occur in Chicago?

Every year, emergency departments see hundreds of children ages 14 years and younger injured on playground equipment. Per the CDC’s statistics:

  • Approximately 45 percent of those injuries consist of fractures, internal injuries, dislocations, amputations, and concussions.
  • Approximately 75 percent were non-fatal injuries on public playgrounds, with most occurring at schools and daycare centers.
  • From 1990 to 2000 there were 147 deaths from playground injuries.

Common Injuries on Playgrounds

Injuries in a playground setting can vary. Sometimes the injuries are minor, while other times these injuries are so severe that a child must be hospitalized. Some common causes of injuries on the playground include:

  • Inadequate Fall Zone Protections – If you have visited a modern playground, you might notice that they have soft padding underneath high points of the playground. Furthermore, the design itself has very few spots where a child could accidentally fall through. When these precautions are not in place, a child may suffer a catastrophic injury, including a traumatic brain injury (TBI), broken bone, lacerations, or organ damage.
  • Improper Protective Surfacing – Protective surfaces are what prevent burns on hot, sunny days, but also keep screws and other connections hidden from children while they climb, crawl, and scale playground equipment.
  • Trip Hazards – Uneven playground equipment may cause a child to trip on the equipment itself or if the ground is uneven around the set.
  • Entanglement Hazards – Whether it is a chain that is not secure, rope, or string, these items are serious entanglement hazards for small children when they must climb around or through them.
  • Entrapment Hazards – Openings that are too small to fit through completely, but still big enough for a child to put part of their body (including their head) into are entrapment hazards. These can lead to suffocation, amputation, and other catastrophic types of injuries.

Playground Injuries Cases Are Premises Liability Claims

Schools and those working at playgrounds owe a responsibility to children that use those premises. They are required by law to ensure that any predictable injuries or dangers are addressed. To sue a playground for your injuries, you would need to do so under the legal theory of premises liability.

To succeed in a premises liability case, you must show:

  • Control: Show that the defendant (the party responsible for the defective playground equipment) has control of the property. This means that they oversee correcting any foreseeable hazards.
  • Permission: The person injured on the playground was expected to be on that playground and had a right to be there. For example, someone trespassing on someone’s private property and being injured on a playground does not have the same expectation of safety as a child using a school-ground playground where they attend classes.
  • Fail to Exercise a Standard Duty of Care: Next, you must show that the defendant failed to exercise his or her duty of care in maintaining the premises and ensuring the playground was safe for use.
  • Injury Was Predictable: The injury must occur in an accident that was predictable, such as a loose chain on a swing that breaks and injures a child. If the injury or hazard is not predictable, it is hard to prove a premises liability case exists.
  • Causation: Most importantly, you must link the defendant’s actions or inactions to the child’s injury – and the inactions must be the primary cause of that child’s injury.

Was It a Defect in Design or Construction?

One important question to ask is whether there was a defect that caused the injury – and if that defect was by design or construction.

A design defect means that the concept of the playground was dangerous from the start; thus, other playgrounds just like it would also be defective. For example, a playground that does not have the proper spacing in between elements is defective from the get-go.

A construction defect means that the design of the playground was within safety specifications, but the party responsible for constructing it at the school site created a defect, which then created a hazard.

In these instances, the manufacturer or company responsible for constructing the playground could be named in the lawsuit.

Who Is Liable for a Playground Injury?

Finding out which party is responsible for your child’s injuries is not always easy. Sometimes, it could be the school or a teacher from the school. Other times it may be the property owner, park owner, park maintenance company, daycare facility, or preschool.

Here are a few examples of liability.

Negligent Supervision for Daycare or School Staff

When a child goes to school, daycare, or another child care facility, parents send their children knowing that an adult is taking responsibility for watching the child. Therefore, if a child is injured, that person could be legally responsible for any injury the child suffers because of their lack of attention.

Teachers and caregivers must take reasonable steps to avoid any foreseeable harm to students and children under their watch. That means acting practically to avoid injuries.

Therefore, parents may sue for negligent supervision for playground injuries when:

  • One party agrees to supervise the child. If there is an agreement that one party is responsible for watching the child, then that party assumes the responsibility when that child is injured. An agreement can include a teacher of the child’s school, a daycare provider, a nanny, or someone else paid or contracted to supervise the child.
  • One party fails to watch the child and prevent injuries. The defendant must fail to monitor the child and prevent injuries, such as talking on their phone instead of watching the child on the playground.
  • Failure to supervise causes the child’s injuries. The defendant’s negligent supervision must be the cause of the child’s injuries. If the two are unrelated, then there is no case against the defendant.

An Example of Negligent Supervision

A child is at school is let out for recess where they play on the playground. There is no supervision at the playground and a fight breaks out. One child is pushed from the playground equipment and breaks her arm. The school could be sued for negligent supervision because there was no one present to monitor the children, and the school has the responsibility to monitor students on school grounds during school hours. Also, had a staff member been present to stop the fight, the injury would not have occurred. Thus, proving negligent supervision.

Special Considerations When Suing the Government

Public schools are considered part of the government; therefore, filing an injury claim against a public school is different than it would be for a private school or residence. Suing the government requires that you follow a strict set of procedures, which means notifying the district of your intent to file a claim. It is best that you consult with an attorney to review your options – especially if you are dealing with a public school.

Hire an Injury Attorney for Your Child’s Playground Accident Today

If your child was injured on a playground, speak with an injury attorney from Malman Law. Our team is ready to help you find the responsible party and not only hold them accountable, but also ensure that the park is corrected so that these accidents do not happen again in the future.

Schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with an attorney from Malman Law today at 888-751-2297 or request more information online.

Steve Malman

Malman Law’s founder Attorney Steven Malman has over 30 years of experience handling personal injury, nursing home, medical malpractice, truck accidents, car accidents, premises liability, construction, and workers’ compensation cases in Chicago, IL.

Years of experience: +30 years
Justia Profile: Steve Malman
Illinois Registration Status: Active and authorized to practice law—Last Registered Year: 2024

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This page has been written, edited, and reviewed by a team of legal writers following our comprehensive editorial guidelines. This page was approved by President and Founder, Steven J. Malman who has more than 20 years of legal experience as a personal injury attorney.

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