This depends on who is charged with the responsibility of the playground, but usually your local government including a city or county parks office is responsible for the public playgrounds in your neighborhood.
Responsibility means that they must maintain the playground and keep it free from defects and other property dangers. If the government fails to exercise reasonable care and a child is injured as a result of the failure, the government may be liable for the injury.
Because playgrounds target small children, a higher level of care is expected than other public spaces. Maintenance includes not only the equipment or toys found on the site but also the surrounding trees, benches and water areas.
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What Do I Need to Prove in a Personal Injury Lawsuit for a Playground Injury?
Premises liability theory is usually the method in which a local government is held liable for a public playground injury. The following are the basic elements that the plaintiff, the injured party, must show to prove liability:
- The defendant, or government office responsible for the public playground, was the entity charged with caring for and maintaining the playground.
- The injured child was the kind of person the local government could expect to use the public playground.
- The local government failed to exercise reasonable care in maintaining the property.
- The type of injury and the manner in which it occurred should have been anticipated by the local government.
- The local government’s failure was the primary cause of the injury sustained.
- The child suffered damages as a result of the injury.
Is Supervision Required at Public Playgrounds?
No. It is not likely that the government is required to provide a supervisor, guard or other official to be present at the public playground.
However, if they offer this safety feature and families rely on such services then they may be liable when the supervisor fails to perform their duty onsite.
What are the Safety Guidelines for Public Playgrounds?
Generally, local governments must maintain safety in three primary areas.
- Design and placement of the playground equipment and surrounding landscaping. Selection of playground sites is important to consider. Also, placement of the equipment, trees and their proximity to natural dangers is relevant to minimizing any dangers to children. Placing a playground near a river area that floods or installing a heavy apparatus on top of a swamp that may sink over time may be dangerous. If a child is injured as a result of poor planning that was foreseeable then the government may be liable.
- Construction is the next safety feature the local government should consider. This includes the materials used to create the playground equipment as well as the installation of any flooring onsite. Cement has been considered a liability in some cases.
- Maintenance of the playground after installation is the third safety feature. The local government has a duty to remove defects within a reasonable amount of time after being notified. Whether they must routinely inspect their facilities depends on your jurisdiction.
What If the Child’s Injury was Caused by Another Child or Other Person?
Third persons including children who are also enjoying the public playground may cause injuries to a child. When this is the cause of the injury, the Court looks to what role if any the local government’s failures in maintenance, construction or design contributed to the injury.
For example, the jungle gym is severely rusted and degrading but the city continues to allow children to play on it. Child A climbs on top and pushes child B. Child B grabs onto the gym to prevent themselves from falling but the metal collapses and the child falls sustaining a serious injury. The city may be liable for failing to remove the degraded gym or close it off from use.
Does Government Immunity Apply to Playground Injuries?
Typically, the local government can only claim governmental immunity if a law provides for that defense for playground injuries. Without such a specific law, it is unlikely that governmental immunity will apply.
When Should I Consult a Lawyer?
If your child has already been injured due to some defect on your local playground you should consult a local personal injury lawyer. A lawyer can help you decide whether your case will be successful and represent you in court.
If you have concerns about potential dangers on your local playground and your local government officials are ignoring your concerns, then you should contact a local government lawyer to see what steps you can take to get your local government to remove the danger.