Playground Injury Lawsuit

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 What Are Playground Injuries?

Playgrounds are outdoor areas that are provided for individuals, most often children, to play in. Playgrounds are most often found in public parks or attached to a school. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, each year more than 220,000 children under the age of fourteen are treated in hospital emergency rooms as a result of injuries occurring on playgrounds.

Injuries that commonly occur in playgrounds include:

  • Minor to severe cuts and abrasions;
  • Head and neck injuries;
  • Back injuries;
  • Broken bones including broken arms and legs;
  • Deaths have also been associated with the use of playground equipment, although the occurrence of such is rare; and
  • Other minor injuries such as muscle sprains and strains.

Because of the risk of injury at a playground many playgrounds will post rules and warning signs, including liability notices, in prominent areas regarding the usage of the playground. As such, suing a playground or the city for injuries you or your child sustained at a playground.

Who Is Liable for Playground Injuries?

In short, whether or not a party can be held liable for injuries sustained at a playground is determined on the circumstances surrounding each individual’s personal injury claim. Because playgrounds are recreational in nature they are often heavily protected from tort claims. This is especially true if the injury is a public park injury.

However, a city or other public entity may be held liable under the theory or premises liability if it is determined that the injury was caused by a defect in the park’s structures. Questions that an individual can ask in order to determine if another entity or individual may be liable for their child’s injuries include:

  1. Was there a failure to maintain the park structures?
    • In making the playground, cities have an obligation to make sure that the playground is reasonably safe to use, such as maintaining the park, and making sure the area is well lit and the playground structures are well maintained.
    • Cities and other public entities that provide a playground are also generally obligated to eliminate potential safety hazards such as uneven pavement, rusty or broken grinding rails, or other hazards that may be present at a playground;
  2. Were the injuries caused by defective playground equipment?
    • In some cases manufacturers of playground equipment can be held liable for defective products or parts used in the equipment;
  3. Was the playground a private playground?
    • If the playground was privately run and owned, then the injured party may be able to sue the owners if they failed to post warning signs, and if the injured person never signed a waiver agreeing to not sue the owner for any reason.
    • Additionally, if the playground created a duty to supervise a child, such as by providing for the caretaking of the child, and failed to supervise the child, then they may also be liable for injuries sustained; or
  4. Were the injuries caused by a third party?
    • In some cases, other patrons of the playground can be held liable for injuries caused to one another, which usually involves some act of negligence or recklessness, such as disregarding park rules or acting in a dangerous way.

What Happens If the Owner of the Playground Is a Local or City Government?

It is important to note that if the owner of the playground is a local or city government, then they will likely have legal protection against tort cases at the federal level thanks to the Federal Tort Claims Act. The Federal Tort Claims Act, is a federal law that was passed in 1946 which provides cities freedom and liability protection from certain torts.

Additionally, most states also have state claims acts, which provide immunity at the state level from certain torts, as well as specific procedures for bringing any tort claims against the state. Importantly, governmental immunity may not always be applicable to all personal injury claims that result from playground injuries.

How Can the Manufacturer of the Playground Equipment Be Liable?

Playground equipment manufacturers can be held liable if their product was defective in some way. Because playground equipment is intended for use by children, manufacturers of playground equipment should take every precaution to ensure that their equipment is safe for use.

Manufacturers of playground equipment should also take precautions that include using the most safe and durable material possible. Manufacturers should also design playground structures that can bear unexpected weight, as well as ensure guardrails are present for platforms that are raised above the ground.

Can Teachers or Daycare Supervisors Be Liable?

In short, it depends. In order for teachers or daycare supervisors to generally be held liable for playground injuries, the parent or legal guardian for the child injured will need to prove that the teacher or daycare supervisor acted without reasonable care. In other words, the individual bringing the personal injury claim against the teacher or daycare supervisor will need to prove all of the required elements of negligence cases.

It is important to note that in cases of intentional acts occurring at playground, such as bullying or sexual assault, the person bringing the case on behalf of the child that was injured must prove that the school authorities knew or could have known about the intentional acts occurring.

Are There Any Laws Governing Playground Safety?

There are federal guidelines that provide recommendations for playground-related injuries and mechanisms of injuries. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (“CPSC”) is a federal entity that published a Public Playground Safety Handbook that provides guidelines for surfacing materials to be used at playgrounds that provide head impact attenuation and can mitigate the hazard presented by falls from playground equipment

However, it is important to note that the CPSC’s guidelines are not mandatory, but many states such as Texas have adopted the rules. There are only a handful of states that have enacted their own regulations with regard to playground safety. For example, the state of California has enacted laws and guidelines for playground safety, which are more stringent than the federal CPSC guidelines.

In addition, the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) requires that places of public accommodation, such as playgrounds be readily accessible to, and usable by, individuals with disabilities.

What Can I Do to Protect My Child?

In order to prevent or reduce the chance of injury to your child, parents and caregivers may take several precautions, including providing proper supervision, ensuring that there are no present hazards at the playground, and guiding kids to appropriate playground areas for their age.

Because falls are one of the most commonly cited playground injuries, such as by children reaching their arms out to break their fall when they are slipping, losing their grip, or losing their balance while playing on equipment such as monkey bars, climbing equipment, or swings, parents should ensure that their children play on age appropriate playground equipment.

Many injuries also occur to children as a result of playing on slides. Young children are especially susceptible to injuries on slides, whether due to them falling off the slide or being injured as a result of sliding down on the lap of an adult and the child’s leg becoming stuck or being twisted.

A smaller number of playground injuries occur on other playground equipment, such as see-saws or coming into contact with older playground equipment that may have sharper edges than current playground equipment.

All in all, the best thing that a parent or caregiver can do to prevent an injury to their child is properly supervise the child. Also, if the equipment at the playground does appear to be well maintained, then they should avoid the use of the equipment as it could be defective or faulty.

Should I Talk to a Lawyer If My Child Suffered a Playground Injury?

As can be seen, playground injuries involve various laws, which require proving various different levels of liability. As such, if you find yourself in a situation where you or your child were injured at a playground, it may be in your best interests to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney.

An experienced playground injuries lawyer will be able to determine if you have a viable case, and who you can sue to recover for your injuries. Further, an attorney will also be able to help you navigate through the various legal issues of your case, and represent you in a court, as necessary.

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