In most cases, the local government, which may be a city or county parks office, is responsible for public playground safety and maintenance. This means the entity must keep the playground safe for children and free from defects and other property dangers.
If the governmental entity does not exercise reasonable care and a child is injured as a result of that failure, the governmental entity in charge of the playground may be liable for the child’s injury.
Since playgrounds are expected to be used by small children, a higher level of care and maintenance is expected than may be expected in other public areas maintained by the same governmental entity. Maintenance includes not only the equipment or toys found on the site but also the surrounding trees, benches, water areas, and any other structures the children may encounter.
What are the Safety Guidelines for Public Playgrounds?
There are three main elements the local governmental entity must consider at a playground. These include:
- Design and placement of playground equipment, surrounding objects and any landscaping at the playground. Nearby dangerous objects, trees that may blow over in a storm and closeness to any other natural dangers that may pose a threat to children playing in the area must be considered. If a child is injured on a public playground by a structure on the playground or dangerous condition on the playground that the local governmental entity should have recognized would be hazardous, they may be liable for the child’s injury.
- Construction of the playground must be done safely so minimize the chances of injury. This may include the equipment selected for the playground, the construction materials and any type of flooring. In some cases, cement has been considered a liability at a playground.
- Maintenance of the playground after it has been constructed is the responsibility of the local governmental entity. They must fix or remove any defects within a reasonable time after being notified there is a problem. Whether or not the local governmental entity is responsible for routine inspection of the playground varies by location.
Is Supervision Required at Public Playgrounds?
No, the governmental entity responsible for maintaining the playground does not have to provide any type of supervisor, guard or other official to be present at the playground. However, if the governmental entity does provide the playground with a supervising official and that individual fails to perform their duties on site, they may be liable.
What Are the Elements of a Personal Injury Lawsuit for a Public Playground Injury?
In most cases, a local governmental entity is held liable for a public playground injury under a premises liability theory. There are several elements that the injured party must prove to show liability for a playground injury. These include:
- The local governmental entity responsible for the public playground is the entity who is responsible for care and maintenance of the playground;
- The child who was injured is the type of individual the local governmental entity would expect to be using the public playground;
- The local governmental entity failed to exercise reasonable care in maintaining the public playground;
- The type of injury that the child suffered was the type that the local governmental entity should have anticipated might occur;
- The primary cause of the child’s injury was the governmental entity’s failure to reasonably design and maintain the public playground; and
- The child suffered damages as a result of the injury sustained at the public playground.
What If the Child’s Injury was Caused by Another Child or Person on the Pubic Playground?
If a child is injured at a public playground but that injury is caused by a third person, the court will examine what role the local governmental entity’s failure in design or maintenance may have played in the injury.
If, for example, a child clings to a piece of severely rusted jungle gym equipment to escape being pushed by another child. If that piece of equipment collapses causing the child to fall, sustaining a serious injury, the local governmental entity may be liable for failing to fix the equipment or marking it off as unusable.
Does Government Immunity Apply to Playground Injuries?
A local government can only claim governmental immunity if there is a law which provides for that defense for public playground injuries. Laws vary by state but, without such a law, it is not likely that governmental immunity will apply.
Is There a Statute of Limitations on an Injury Claim?
In short, yes. A statute of limitations is a time frame in which a claim must be filed. This encourages a plaintiff to file their lawsuit in a timely manner. In this case, a civil lawsuit statute of limitations would apply. The statute of limitations for a personal injury case usually begins at the time of the injury. Each state is different but most have a time limit in which a lawsuit must be filed.
When Should I Consult a Lawyer?
If your child has been injured due to some defect on your local public playground, you should consult a local personal injury lawyer.
If you are concerned about the care and maintenance of your local public playground, voice your concerns to your local government officials. If your concerns are not addressed, contact a local government lawyer to determine steps you can take to get your local government to remove the danger.
Do You Need a Lawyer for a Personal Injury Claim?
If you have been injured, and believe you have a claim, you should contact a personal injury attorney in your area. As noted above, there is a time limit to file personal injury claims. A personal injury attorney can evaluate your case, including the statute of limitations, and help you determine a course of action.