Children love to play. One of the things that children, especially young children, love to do most is play on the playground. Playgrounds are found at public parks and schools. Private arenas often have playgrounds too, places like zoo’s, amusement parks and even baseball stadiums. We assume that these playgrounds are well maintained and that our children will be safe, but unfortunately that isn’t always the case.
Playgrounds can be extremely dangerous. Even playgrounds that are properly maintained and where there is careful supervision. You might be shocked to learn that:
- Children between the ages of 5 and 9 are the most likely to be injured on the playground
- In children between the ages of 5 and 12, 75% of injuries sustained on the playground require a visit to the emergency room. Of that 75%, 45% of the injuries are severe with the remaining being cuts, bruises and broken bones
- Over 150,000 kids per year end up going to the emergency room because of playground injuries
- On average, 8 children die each year because of playground injuries
Common Playground Injuries
Playground injuries that are most likely to happen include:
- Fractures and bone bruises. More than half of playground injuries that require treatment are fractures and bruises. This is partly because kids' bones are not as strong as adults so they are more likely to bend or break bones. Fractures and bruises can be sustained from falls off of equipment or getting a body part caught in between equipment.
- Head or brain injuries. Kids fall, or jump, from playground equipment all the time. Injuries from falls vary depending on the distance from which the child fell and the surface they fell on. If the child was low to the ground and landed on a thick layer of mulch or playground matting, then that child might not be severely injured. A child who falls from a great height or who lands on a hard surface and hits his/her head, could suffer severe injuries including head, neck and traumatic brain injuries.
- Soft tissue injuries. These could be caused by falls or improperly maintained equipment and include sprains and torn muscles.
- Cuts and scrapes. While cuts and scrapes can happen for a variety of reasons, the playground equipment is often the reason. Jagged edges, rusty nails, rotted wood, loose bolts, and broken equipment could all lead to kids being cut and needing stitches or more. The risk of developing tetanus and infections can be high in these situations.
- Strangulation. While not overly common, strangulation can occur. The most likely culprits are swings and ropes.
Who is Liable
If your child was injured in a playground accident, you may be wondering who, if anyone is liable. The answer to that question depends on a number of factors including: where the playground is located, who is responsible for maintaining the playground, whether there was supervision, whether there were any signs warning of danger, and perhaps most importantly the actual injury and the cause of that injury.
If your child is at a playground and being supervised by a daycare, preschool or school, then that organization owes a duty of care to your child. Adults are expected to act in a reasonable, non-negligent way. As discussed below, children of a certain age are presumed to be incapable of exercising reasonable care and acting in a non-negligent way. Therefore the adults responsible for them are expected to exercise reasonable care and watch over them while on the playground. If your child is injured while under the supervision of one of those organizations, and particularly if your child is under the age of 7, then you will likely be able to bring a claim against the organization.
If the playground is located in a public space, like in the city of Charlotte, North Carolina, can you sue the city of Charlotte? It depends on the specific facts of the case. In most cases, cities have immunity. However, that immunity can be overcome in certain circumstances. An experienced Charlotte attorney can examine the facts and help you determine who is liable for a playground injury.
Examples of where liability might exist include:
- Older or worn out playground equipment that causes injury during normal play
- Playgrounds located near a pond, lake or other water feature that could lead to a child drowning easily if they wandered away from the playground. This is particularly true if there are no barriers around the water and/or no signs warning the public about the hazards
Legal Considerations Involving Minors and Playgrounds
Legally speaking, children are not held to the same standard of care as adults. Adults are presumed to understand risks and try to avoid them, there is a presumption that an adult will not act negligently. The same presumption does not apply to children, and in particular those under the age of 7. Under North Carolina law, children under the age of 7 are incapable of negligence. Children between the ages of 7 and 13 have a rebuttable presumption of negligence, meaning that children in this age group are presumed to be incapable of negligence but can be found negligent under certain circumstances. Children over 14 are treated more like adults and they are presumed to be capable of negligence, but unlike for adults, it is a rebuttable presumption.
This is particularly important in North Carolina which is a contributory negligence state. Under the contributory negligence theory, a person cannot recover for damages if they were at all responsible for their injuries. So when an adult acts negligently and that negligence contributes to the injury, he/she will be unable to recover damages for that injury in the majority of cases. Since children under the age of 7 are presumed to be incapable of negligence, and there is a rebuttable presumption for older children, contributory negligence will likely not be a bar to recovery.
Discuss Your Playground Injury Case with Our Charlotte, North Carolina Attorneys
The Charlotte, NC lawyers at Rosensteel Fleishman, PLLC are experienced personal injury lawyers. They are available to discuss your minor child’s playground injury claim with you and help you navigate the legal process if there is a legal claim. Please contact our office at 704-714-1450. There is no fee for an initial consultation.