Daycare Injuries and Accidents: Who’s Liable?
Daycare personnel are entrusted to take care of the little beings that are most precious to us – our children. We expect the people we trust with our children to look out for their welfare and provide for their needs with the same care and attention we would.
Unfortunately, our children are not always kept safe while in the custody of a daycare facility. The law requires childcare businesses to conform to standards intended to ensure the safety of children. Daycare personnel must prioritize the degree of safety appropriate for the children in their care to help prevent daycare injuries and accidents.
When accidents or injuries are the result of improper conduct occurring while a child is at daycare, parents may be able to take legal action recover damages on behalf of their injured child.
Minor bumps, bruises, and/or scraped knees are pretty common injuries for all children as they grow and begin to explore the world. But some injuries that a child may experience at daycare are not ordinary and may be the result of a failure to do what the law requires.
The following facts have been observed about children injured at daycare according to the California Childcare Health Program:
- Falls cause the most injuries
- Boys are more often injured than girls
- More than half of all injuries occur on a playground
- Injuries to parts of the head are the most common
Common Injury Risks at Daycare Facilities
The risks of injury for a child at daycare have to do with what the child has access to and how closely the activities of the child are monitored. Cleaning supplies that are improperly stored can become a poison hazard when accessible by a child. An unsecured gate can give a child access to a busy street or a flight of stairs.
Lack of adequate supervision or inattention by daycare personnel can permit an injury risk to become an actual injury. A child’s actions may be what actually causes their injury, but had they been properly supervised, their actions would have been prevented.
Legal Requirements for Daycare Operations in California
Daycare involves the welfare of children and is strictly regulated to keep children safe. Daycare businesses need to be licensed by the state and must comply with all licensing requirements. Background checks and appropriate training are required for most personnel that will have contact with children.
When a child is injured at daycare, the circumstances leading to the injury need to be evaluated to determine whether the daycare facility and its personnel failed to meet the required legal standards for providing daycare to children in California.
Required Incident Reporting
Daycares are required to file unusual incident reports for occurrences such as the outbreak of communicable illnesses, incidents that put children in danger, and any injury occurring to a child that requires medical attention. A phone report is required within one working day of the incident, and a written report is required to be filed within one week.
Adult to Child Supervision Ratios
Because adequate supervision is critical to preventing injuries, California requires particular ratios of adults to children of various ages. Younger children require more adult eyes on their activities than older children who have reached a later stage of development.
These are the minimum required ratios of adults to children in a childcare facility:
- 1 adult to 4 children under 18 months
- 1 adult to 6 children between 18 months and 3 years
- 1 adult to 12 children between 3 years and 5 years
- 1 adult to 14 children above 5 years
Children Have Personal Rights in Daycare
Children at daycare have certain rights that need to be respected by the persons caring for them. California has granted children personal rights while at daycare. Those rights include the following:
- Children have the right to safe, healthful, and comfortable accommodations.
- Children have the right to be treated with dignity.
- Children have the right not to be physically harmed in any way for any reason.
- Children have the right to use the bathroom as often as they need or wish to.
- Children have the right not to have food withheld for disciplinary reasons.
- Children have the right to be free of mental abuse – such as humiliation or threats.
When a Daycare is Liable for a Child’s Injuries
Often, parents must sign a liability waiver attempting to free the daycare from liability for injuries to a child. But the waiver cannot free the facility from liability for its misconduct. A daycare can be liable for injuries to a child in its care if the daycare personnel did not observe the proper operations standards or failed to act with the appropriate level of care for the well-being of the child.
Three frequent reasons a daycare is liable for a child’s injuries include:
- Lack of adequate supervision
- Failure to maintain a safe place for children
- Violation of the law
What if Another Child Injured My Child at Daycare?
In California, the parents of a minor child can be held responsible for the damage the child causes either because the child acted willfully or because the parents’ conduct contributed to the child’s actions. However, the amount of damages that can be recovered is limited by law.
The parents of a child who know the child bites may be liable when their child bites another child at daycare. When the parents have alerted the daycare to the child’s biting, the daycare may be liable for not taking measures to protect other children from a child known to bite. Even if the daycare is unaware of a child’s tendency to bite, it still may be liable if adequate supervision could have prevented the injury.
What To Do If You Suspect Your Child Has Been Injured at Daycare
Some injuries and accidents just happen even though everyone is trying their best to avoid them. But other injuries and accidents are preventable. When they happen to children in daycare, the people responsible should be held accountable.
If you suspect your child was injured at daycare due to misconduct, you can consult a daycare injury attorney in California to find out about your legal options for recovery and how to best protect your child from further injury.