Camp negligence refers to a very specific type of personal injury. Claims related to camp negligence occur when a child is wrongfully or unreasonably injured while attending summer camp, and the parents sue the camp. Child injury lawsuits are fairly common and are generally based on the legal theory of negligence. Meaning, the injury resulted from an accident, rather than an intentional act in which the child acted with both the purpose and intent of harm. A common example of negligence would be when a child is injured because of dangerous conditions on the premises, such as a playground.
Child care centers, such as camps and daycares, are not primarily designed to ensure the safety of every child in attendance. However, camps do owe them a high degree of care. This degree of care can differ according to:
- The ages of the children in attendance;
- The activities the children are able to engage in;
- The employee’s ability to foresee and avoid perils; and/or
- Other such circumstances.
According to most courts, childcare facilities such as camps are primarily intended to provide supervision. As such, the duty owed by these facilities is considerably different from the duty owed by schools, which primarily exist to provide education.
What Injuries and Violations Can Occur At a Camp Setting?
Some examples of injuries and violations that can happen in a camp setting include:
- Swimming and other water sport injuries;
- Broken bones, lacerations, and infections;
- Slip and fall accidents; and/or
- Injuries resulting from poorly maintained premises.
Child care facilities, such as camps, are required by law to take reasonable precautions in order to avoid certain dangers. Reasonable precautions generally refer to things that are within the control of the facility or camp. An example of this would be how it is reasonable to expect a child care facility to have their cleaning supplies stored in a locked cabinet, and to have all electrical outlets covered.
Alternatively, it may not be considered reasonable to expect an after school facility to lock up child scissors. In terms of a camp setting, it would be reasonable to expect the camp to have a lifeguard on duty for all swimming and water activities. However, it would be unreasonable to expect them to maintain the grounds in such a way that the children never encounter any potentially dangerous wildlife.
Generally speaking, any injuries caused by one child onto another is not considered a reasonable danger. However, if the injury could have been reasonably avoided, a court may hold the facility liable for any injuries.
Which Parties Can be Held Liable for Camp Negligence?
For a party to be held liable for a child’s injuries resulting from negligence, the person must owe the child a legal duty of care to be liable. Some common examples include:
- Parents, guardians, or other custodians of the child;
- Teachers, principals and other educational professionals;
- Those charged with temporary care of the child such, as a daycare worker, school bus drivers, babysitters, etc.;
- Manufacturers who owe a duty to create and produce safe toys; and/or
- Social workers and other people who may be dealing with the child.
When speaking about camps specifically, some parties that may be held liable for camp negligence could include:
- The property owner;
- The camp owner;
- Groundskeepers tasked with maintaining safe campgrounds;
- Camp staff tasked with supervising the children; and/or
- The camp nurse.
Are There Any Legal Remedies for Camp Negligence Claims?
Legal remedies for camp negligence claims will closely resemble those utilized in personal injury and other negligence claims. This will likely consist of a monetary damages award intended to cover losses caused by the injury.
Monetary damages awards are generally issued to cover the following quantifiable damages:
- Medical expenses;
- Hospital bills;
- Physical therapy costs;
- If applicable, time missed from work because of the accident; and/or
- In wrongful death cases, funeral costs.
The court may issue an injunction, which orders the liable party to take certain action. Such an injunction typically requires changes to safety policies. In terms of a camp setting, an example of an injunction would be to require a lifeguard at all water recreation areas.
Are There any Special Fairfax Laws that Apply to Camp Negligence?
It is imperative to note that DC is one of the last jurisdictions to maintain a contributory negligence law. What this means is that if you are at least 5% responsible for your accident, you will likely be completely barred from any sort of recovery. This would include a damages award. The majority of other states maintain that if a person is contributorily negligent, their award will be reduced according to the amount of contributory negligence.
The statute of limitations for filing a personal injury claim, such as a camp negligence claim, is three years from the date of the incident. Beyond that, there are no special Fairfax laws that may apply to camp negligence. However, it would be best to consult with an area attorney in order to determine whether any other local laws will apply to your case.
How Do I File a Camp Negligence Case in the Fairfax Area?
Specific standards of negligence vary between the states. Generally speaking, the elements of a child care center, such as a camp, injury claim are:
- The facility had a duty of care to protect your child from reasonable harm;
- The facility breached that duty of care;
- The breach was the direct and proximate cause of the child’s injuries;
- The injury was reasonably foreseeable by camp staff; and
- There is an actual injury with an available, quantifiable remedy.
In order to file a camp negligence case in the Fairfax area, you will need to ensure that you can prove the elements mentioned above. You will also need to prove that you were not contributorily negligent in any way.
You should collect some evidence to support your claim. This most commonly includes:
- Photographic and/or video evidence;
- Reports from the child’s physician documenting their injury or condition;
- Witness statements; and
- A copy of the incident report documented by the camp.
What Are the Legal Defenses to Camp Negligence?
If the defense is able to argue that “contributory negligence” is a factor in the lawsuit, the court will need to conduct a detailed analysis in order to determine whether the victim’s damages should be reduced or limited. As previously mentioned, DC takes a strict stance against contributory negligence which could render a lawsuit unsuccessful.
Unlike adults, the process for determining a child’s negligence utilizes special standards. It is different from the process used to determine an adult’s negligence. Children are only expected to behave in a way that is considered to be “reasonable” when compared to other children. Common factors used to determine a child’s negligence include:
- Educational level; and
- Experience under the same circumstances.
An example of this would be how most children at the age of three cannot be expected to understand and follow warning signs. This is because most children cannot yet read at that age.
However, an established case has proved that a child as young as five years old can be held accountable for pulling a prank that badly injured the victim. While the child might not have been able to anticipate the nature of the injuries, the court found that the child did understand the nature of their actions, and did it with purpose.
Do I Need a Fairfax Lawyer for Help with a Camp Negligence Lawsuit?
If your child was injured at camp because of camp negligence, and you are in the Fairfax area, you should immediately consult with a skilled and knowledgeable personal injury attorney.
An experienced personal injury attorney can help defend against any contributory negligence accusations, and ensure all claims are filed within the three year timeframe. Additionally, an attorney can also represent you in court as needed, and will be aware of any special local laws that could affect your camp negligence lawsuit.