It is estimated that there are over 200,000 playground injuries a year in the United States. These injuries range from minor cuts to serious falls and even death.
Who is Liable for Playground Injuries?
Depending on the accident, a number of parties could be responsible for your child's playground injury, including but not limited to:
- The owner of the playground
- The manufacturer of the equipment
- The contractor who installed the equipment
What Happens If the Owner of the Playground Is a Local or City Government?
This may differ from state to state. Government immunity may not be applicable, depending on the specific reasons for the injury. For example, policy issues like budget are generally immune from lawsuits, as are teachers acting within the scope of employment. A general duty to the public, however, may not suffice in establishing government immunity from playground injury cases.
How Can The Manufacturer of the Playground Equipment Be Liable?
Playground equipment manufacturers can be liable if their product was defective in some way. Since the equipment is intended for use by children, the manufacturers should take every precaution to ensure that their equipment is safe for use, especially since children may use the playground in creative and unexpected ways. Such precautions should include using the most durable material possible, designing structures that can bear unexpected weight, and guardrails for platforms raised above the ground.
Can Teachers or Daycare Supervisors Be Liable?
It depends. Given that teachers normally have many children to look out for, it is usually somewhat difficult to prove that a teacher or supervisor acted without reasonable care in negligence cases. In cases of intentional acts on the playground, such as bullying or sexual assault, it must be proven school authorities knew or could have known about the intentional acts.
Are There Any Laws Governing Playground Safety?
Only a handful of states have enacted laws to regulate playground safety. However, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission has published a Handbook for Playground Safety, as well as Playground Safety Checklists, that you can refer to for guidance.
What Can I Do to Protect My Child?
It is important that you actively supervise your child on the playground and make sure the playground equipment is safe. The National Program for Playground Safety makes the following recommendations:
- The surfaces around the playground equipment should be shock-absorbing and at least 12 inches thick. These can be synthetic surfaces or loose-fill materials, such as hardwood fiber chips, shredded rubber, mulch, sand or pea gravel.
- The shock-absorbing surfacing should extend at least 6 feet in every direction from the play equipment. For swings, the surfacing should extend twice the height of the suspending bar in both directions.
- Elevated platforms should have guardrails.
- Bolts and other sharp points should have protective caps and plugs. There should not be any open S hooks.
- Playground equipment taller than 30 inches should be spaced at least 9 feet apart.
- Openings between guardrails or ladder rungs should be spaced so as not to trap children (i.e., less than 3.5 inches or more than 9 inches).
- Swings should be installed at a minimum of two feet apart at the base and at least 30 inches away from the support structure.
- For preschool children, playground equipment should be no higher than six feet. For elementary-age children, playground equipment should be no higher than eight feet.
Should I Talk to a Lawyer if My Child Suffered a Playground Injury?
If your child has been injured in a playground accident, and someone else's negligence contributed to the accident, contact a personal injury attorney immediately as there may be time limits within which you must file a claim. An experienced personal injury attorney will protect your child's legal rights and if necessary file a lawsuit to help you seek any damages that your child is entitled to.