Personal Injury Liability for Nurseries and Daycare

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 What Is Premises Liability?

The legal theory of premises liability holds property owners responsible for accidents and injuries that happened on their property. This includes any accidents and injuries that occurred in and around their business, or in their home.

Premises liability law requires property owners to ensure the safety of any person who enters their property, and to take all reasonable measures in order to accomplish this. As a legal concept, it generally occurs alongside personal injury cases in which a person’s injury was caused by unsafe or defective conditions on someone else’s property.

Additionally, premises liability claims are commonly based on the legal concept of negligence. Negligence refers to a person failing to exercise reasonable care, with that failure resulting in the damage or injury of another person. The concept focuses on a person’s failure to take certain precautions and actions, as opposed to the person’s direct actions. However, negligence is a flexible idea that can appear in many contexts. Emotional harm such as PTSD developing due to negligent conduct is also cause for a lawsuit.

An employer could be negligent by not giving an employee proper safety equipment which would have prevented an injury. Another area in which an employer could be negligent, causing employee injury, would be training and supervision.

Businesses can also act negligently by making faulty goods that cause injury. An example of negligently making or designing goods for sale would be failing to test a toaster to ensure that it does burst into flames. Designing a toaster to be built out of flammable material would be a specific example of negligent design.

In order to prove negligence, and therefore premises liability, the plaintiff generally must prove the following:

  1. The owner owed a duty of care to the visitor or person who was injured on their property;
  2. There was a dangerous, unsafe, and/or defective condition on the owner’s property;
  3. The owner knew of the dangerous, unsafe, and/or dangerous condition, but failed to remedy the condition; and
  4. That the injury occurred because of the owner’s failure to exercise their duty of care to prevent the accident and resulting injury.

A duty of care is generally owed to another person in any situation in which a person may foreseeably be injured due to another’s actions, or inaction. A breach of this duty occurs when a person, such as the property owner, does not act as reasonably or prudent as another person would under the same circumstances.

As such, it must be proven that the property owner’s negligence was the “actual and proximate” cause of the injuries being claimed; this is also referred to as causation. Once the other three elements have been proven, the plaintiff must then prove that there was some quantifiable loss or damage as a direct result of the property owner’s negligence.

What Is The Standard Of Care For Children At Nurseries And Daycares To Prevent Injuries?

Daycare centers are generally considered to be safe spaces for infants and children of all ages. Unfortunately, accidents occur, and some facilities may not be as safe as others.

Child care providers have a legal duty to provide a “reasonable standard of care” to every child that is in their care. This standard is also referred to as the “prudent daycare center” standard. The prudent daycare center standard asserts that every child receives what is essentially a reasonable amount of care and attention that is considered to be appropriate for their age. An example of this would be how an infant requires a higher level of care than that of an 8 year old.

In terms of liability, a center may not be held liable for two children bumping heads while running a playground. However, they could be held negligently liable for a baby falling off of a changing table.

While specific standards of negligence vary between the states, in the event of an accident, courts determine liability in a daycare injury claim based on the following facts:

  • The daycare facility had a duty of care to protect your child from reasonable harm;
  • The daycare facility breached that duty of care;
  • The breach was the direct and proximate cause of your child’s injuries;
  • The injury was reasonably foreseeable by daycare staff; and
  • There is an actual injury, with an available remedy.

In order to help prove the element of damage, you should take photographic evidence or retain any documentation to ensure that you can establish that the child was injured. Examples of documentation include reports from the child’s physician, or incident reports created by daycare staff.

What Are Reasonable Dangers? Do State And Local Laws For Nurseries Or Daycares Affect Their Liability For Injury?

By law, child care facilities are required to take reasonable precautions in order to avoid certain dangers. Reasonable precautions are generally factors that are within the daycares control.

An example of this would be how it is reasonable to expect a facility to have their cleaning supplies stored in a locked cabinet, and to have electrical outlets covered. Alternatively, it may not be reasonable to expect an after school facility to lock up child scissors.

In general, injuries caused by one child onto another is not considered to be a reasonable danger. However, if the injury could have been reasonably avoided, a court may hold a daycare center liable for any injuries.

Additionally, state and local laws set specific standards for licensing, and as such provide a foundation for determining negligence and liability.

Are There Any Defenses To Premises Liability Or Negligence In General?

If you are a property owner and find yourself facing a premises liability claim, the most important defense will be to prove that you were not actually negligent. You should dispute any of the components of negligence, meaning duty, breach, causation, and/or damages.

Other common defenses include:

  • Assumption of Risk: The plaintiff was aware of the risk, and disregarded the risk, which caused them to assume the risk of being injured. They knew that they were doing something inherently dangerous, and chose to do it anyway. The plaintiff cannot recover any damages if they knowingly and voluntarily assumed a risk of harm in connection with the negligence of the defendant;
  • Contributory Negligence: Simply put, the plaintiff contributed to their own injury. Contributory negligence is not available as a defense in every jurisdiction; and
  • Comparative Negligence: The plaintiff’s own negligence contributed to their injury, so that they are partially negligent in their own injury.

In terms of contributory and comparative negligence, depending on state law, one or the other will apply. The general idea is the same; both defenses ask whether the person injured is in some way responsible for the injury they suffered.

In contributory negligence jurisdictions, any negligence on the part of the injured person is a total bar to recovery. What this means is that they will not receive any damages at all. In a comparative negligence jurisdiction, the injured person can still recover a damages award, but the recovery is reduced by how negligent they were.

Do I Need A Lawyer For Help With Personal Injury Liability For Nurseries And Daycares?

If your child was injured while in a nursery or attending daycare, and as a result of the center’s negligence, you should contact a local personal injury attorney.

Because the duty of care is based on “reasonable” standards, variability among states is high, and a lawyer is necessary to determine the likelihood of your case’s success in your specific state. Additionally, an attorney can inform you of any potential daycare or nursery licensing violations.

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