Summers in South Florida – and across the country – are rife with their own risks of child injuries, even excluding the COVID-19 pandemic. But compounding matters this year are a few different factors, including a reluctance by parents to bring their children into the emergency room. However, as noted by a pediatrician writing for The New York Times, delays like this can be painful for the child, and they can cause problems for the doctor. For instance, you can’t stitch a days-old laceration, no matter how sizable. As our Fort Lauderdale child injury lawyers can explain, some injuries can be exacerbated by delaying medical care. Some, like head injuries and those involving internal bleeding, may even prove fatal if they aren’t caught early and treated.
Here, our Fort Lauderdale child injury attorneys details some of the more common child injuries and fatalities reported this summer and what type of situations may allow for legal recourse (compensation for medical bills, lost wages, loss of life enjoyment, pain and suffering, emotional distress and punitive damages). As always, this is not intended to be legal advice, and specific questions and concerns should be addressed in direct consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer.
Drowning in Florida is the No. 1 cause of death among children ages 1 to 4 (enough to fill three-to-four preschool classrooms every year). According to Water Smart Tots, a non-profit that raises awareness of child drowning deaths in the greater Tampa Bay area, drowning deaths in Florida were up 70 percent in February and March, compared to the same time last year. That risk is believed to have only gotten worse as an increasing number of parents are trying to juggle working from home while homeschooling older kids. Toddlers can drown in just a few inches of water, and it only takes seconds for them to slip away unnoticed and into a nearby canal, pool, lake or bathtub.
Nationally, about 1,000 kids of all ages die each year in drowning incidents, about 45 percent of those being kids ages 1 to 4.
Liability in these cases really depends on who was in charge. If a child was being supervised at someone else’s home or if the child was able to gain access to an un-gated or un-guarded pool or other body of water, it’s possible a claim could be made against one’s homeowners’ or renter’s insurance. If the child was in a daycare, camp, condominium association, etc., chances are these operations have some sort of liability insurance that may pay the claim.
Prevention is always better. Younger children and those who are not experienced swimmers should always be within an arm’s reach. Means of egress, including windows, doors and screens, should be equipped with proper locking mechanisms and alarms if necessary. Pools should be equipped with alarms, gates and other barriers. Remember that drowning is a silent catastrophe that can happen in just a few minutes. Adequate supervision around any body of water is key.
Bicycle, Scooter and ATV Injuries
It is impossible to talk about child summer safety without talking about bicycles, scooters and ATVs. Summer is already the time when these injuries are reported at all-time highs compared to the rest of the year. We don’t have any local statistics for this year yet, but anecdotal evidence suggests these types of injuries spiked this year as children sought a physical outlet and boredom buster that would also allow them to remain socially-distanced/outdoors. It is imperative that parents be vigilant about their children wearing helmets at all times. Hospitals throughout the country have been reporting an uptick in child head injuries among youthful riders.
As far as liability, it will depend heavily on the situation. For example, if an adult was supposed to be supervising and was not, that individual may be legally responsible. If the child was struck by a motor vehicle, it will be important to look carefully at what happened. Even if a child unexpectedly darted out into the street, a driver may be held liable if they were not traveling at a reasonable speed, were distracted, etc. Drivers have a responsibility to be alert and prepared for sudden emergencies just like that. In some cases, there may be grounds for a claim against the manufacturer of the bike, scooter or ATV if there is evidence it malfunctioned or was defective as designed or built.