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Vacationing with a Child: What to Know About Premises Liability

Jun 29, 2022 - Premises Liability

Summer is here, and that means lots of families are heading out on vacation. While some families do more planning than others, almost no one prepares for the possibility of their child suffering an injury while traveling away from home.

Unfortunately, these types of scenarios are all too common. According to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy, a child is treated for an accidental injury in an emergency room every four seconds, and accidental injuries are the leading cause of death among children between the ages of 1 and 14.

Here are some additional statistics on child injuries:

  • In 2020, there were approximately 130,000 swimming accidents in the U.S. resulting in emergency room treatment. Approximately half of these accidents involved children under 14 years old.
  • While the rate of fatal child injuries decreased significantly from 2010 to 2019, injury is still the leading cause of death among U.S. children and teens.
  • Among high-income countries, the United States has the third-highest rate of injury-related deaths among children.

While child injuries can result from a variety of different causes, many of them are premises-related. In other words, they result from hazardous property conditions, inadequate maintenance, and supervision, and various other issues that property owners could—and generally should—prevent. When this is the case, parents can pursue claims based on the law of premises liability, and filing successful claims can result in the recovery of significant financial compensation.

12 Common Causes of Child Injuries on Vacation

To put all of this into context, we can look at seven of the most common causes of child injuries on vacation. Parents will often have premises liability claims in cases involving:

1. Hotel, Motel and Resort Accidents

Accidents at hotels, motels, and resorts can range from slips, trips, and falls to elevator and escalator malfunctions. The owners of these properties owe clear duties to their guests, and they can be held liable when their failure to meet these duties results in a child injury.

2. Amusement Park Accidents

While amusement parks can be fun, they can also be dangerous. According to the National Safety Council, there are between 1,000 and 2,000 ride-related injuries at amusement parks in the U.S. and Canada each year. But, there are far more injuries as a result of slippery floors and other property hazards.

3. Swimming Pool Accidents

Swimming pool accidents can be extremely dangerous for obvious reasons. Whether a swimming pool owner fails to maintain the decking surrounding the pool or fails to provide adequate supervision or security, there is a good chance that the pool owner will be liable in the event of a fall or a near-drowning accident.

4. Playground Accidents

Playgrounds are everywhere these days, and going to a playground on vacation can allow children to burn off some energy while allowing their parents to get some rest and relaxation. But, improper construction, inadequate maintenance, and various other issues can lead to all types of playground injuries.

5. Accidents at Ponds and Lakes

Accidents at ponds and lakes can also be extremely dangerous. From renting unsafe boats to failing to post adequate warnings, there are several issues that can justify premises liability claims against the owners of these natural areas.

6. Accidents at the Beach

Parents can pursue premises liability claims for accidents at the beach in many cases as well. Failure to fill in dangerous holes, failure to post adequate warnings about rip currents, and failure to clean up rented beach equipment are just a few examples.

7. Accidents Onboard Cruise Ships

Going on a cruise can be a great way to get away from it all, and cruise lines are back up and running in 2022. Unfortunately, cruise ships present many injury risks for children (and adults), and it is not uncommon for cruising families to find themselves needing to file premises liability claims.

8. Bounce House Accidents

While bounce houses are supposed to be fun, injuries in bounce houses are common. Many of these accidents result from collisions between children—often because the individual who is supposed to be supervising the bounce house lets too many children enter at one time. Accidents involving waterslides, deflating bounce houses, and bounce houses blown by the wind are common as well.

9. Accidents at Parades

Whether at an amusement park or in a city center, a parade can be an exciting event, and children are often amazed by seeing floats and performers that appear larger than life. But, reckless driving, overcrowding, and various other risks can put children in danger during these live events.

10. Alligator and Other Animal Attacks

In Florida and other southern states, the risk of alligator and other animal attacks is a very real concern. While these attacks are relatively uncommon, they do happen, and the consequences can be devastating. When an amusement park or other property owner fails to adequately protect children from wild animals, the park or property owner can be held legally responsible.

11. Stroller Accidents

All strollers should be safe for children of appropriate ages. However, amusement parks and other facilities often fail to adequately maintain their rental strollers, and excessive heat and other issues can present risks for children as well.

12. Accidental Shootings

As a parent, you never imagine that your child could become a victim of violence. Unfortunately, as shootings become increasingly common across the United States, the risk of a child becoming an accidental victim of a shooting becomes increasingly common as well. If a child’s victimization results from a venue’s or other property owner’s or tenant’s failure to provide adequate security, the child’s parents may have a claim for significant financial compensation.

What Parents Should Do if Their Child Is Injured on Vacation

So, let’s say your child gets injured on vacation, what should you do? In most cases, parents should try to take the following steps as soon as possible:

  • Take Photos and Videos – Parents should try to document the scene of their child’s accident thoroughly. The easiest way to do this is to take plenty of photos and videos with your phone. Try to document the specific location where your child got injured, the surrounding area, any nearby signs or landmarks, and your child’s injuries themselves.
  • Get Medical Treatment for Your Child – Even though you are on vacation, getting medical treatment for your child needs to be your priority. Do not try to wait until you get back home. Not only could this potentially be dangerous for your child, but it could also make it much more difficult to file a successful premises liability claim.
  • Talk to Any Witnesses – If anyone witnessed the accident, talk to them and get their contact information. While it is okay to do this quickly if you need to take your child to the hospital, it may also be a good idea for one parent to go to the hospital while the other remains at the scene of the accident.
  • Write Down the Details – The more details you can record, the better. While everything is still fresh in your mind, take 5 or 10 minutes to write a list of everything you can remember.
  • Talk to a Lawyer – To file a premises liability claim, you will need an experienced lawyer on your side. Many law firms that handle premises liability claims accept calls 24/7, and you should be able to get a free consultation right away.

What Parents Should Know About Premises Liability

Given the risks (and costs) associated with child injuries, it is a good idea that parents have at least a basic understanding of their legal rights in the event that their child gets injured on vacation this summer. With this in mind, here is an overview of what parents need to know:

1. The General Principles

To have a claim, parents must be able to prove that a property owner’s (or tenant’s) negligence is responsible for their child’s injury. So, what is “negligence”?

In very broad terms, negligence is comparable to fault. If a property owner or tenant is at fault for causing a child’s injury, then the property owner or tenant can most likely be held responsible. A claim for negligence has four key “elements”:

  • Duty – Property owners and tenants owe varying duties under different circumstances. If a child is injured at a business or in a public place, then the highest duty is owed. Homeowners generally owe a lesser duty to invited guests, and they owe the lowest duty to trespassers. However, as discussed below, special rules may apply in cases involving child injuries.
  • Breach – This is where the idea of “fault” most directly comes into play. Breaches can take many different forms, including failing to clean up spills, improperly installing playground equipment, and failing to remedy safety risks such as loose steps or handrails.
  • Causation – To file a successful claim, parents must be able to prove that the property owner’s or tenant’s breach caused their child’s injury. This typically requires evidence from the scene of the accident, though medical records can also point to the cause of a child’s injury
  • Harm – This is typically the easiest element to prove, as it will be obvious that the child has been injured. With that said, it is important that parents seek treatment for their children promptly in order to document their injuries, and this is true even when families are on vacation.

While this might seem complicated—and it is to an extent—in many cases, it will be fairly clear that a property owner or tenant is liable for a child’s injury. Based on the circumstances involved, there will be almost no question that the property owner or tenant is responsible. But, proving liability can still be challenging, and the best way for parents to protect their family’s legal rights is to speak with a lawyer as soon as possible.

2. Special Considerations in Cases Involving Child Injuries

In many cases, special rules apply to premises liability claims involving child injuries. For example, some rules that can help parents recover financial compensation in child injury cases include:

  • The “Attractive Nuisance” Doctrine – When a property has an “attractive nuisance” (i.e., a swimming pool, bounce house or piece of construction equipment), the owner or tenant owes a heightened duty to prevent injuries to children even if they are trespassing.
  • Comparative Fault and Contributory Negligence – While most states have laws that limit accident victims’ ability to recover financial compensation if they are partially responsible for their own injuries, many states have exceptions for child injury cases.
  • Statutes of Limitations for Child Injury Claims – State statutes of limitations limit the amount of time accident victims have to assert their legal rights. However, these laws frequently provide extended limitation periods for child injury claims.

As you can see, these rules make it possible to file claims for child injuries even in circumstances in which adults may not have grounds to sue for themselves. This is important for parents to know, and parents should never assume that they are without recourse if their child has been injured on someone else’s property.

3. Insurance Coverage for Premises Liability Claims

The final key aspect parents should know is that most premises liability claims are covered by insurance. Commercial liability insurance policies, homeowner’s insurance policies, and renter’s insurance policies all cover premises liability claims. As a result, in the vast majority of cases, parents do not need to go to court in order to recover just compensation.

Is It Worth Filing a Premises Liability Claim for Your Child?

Now that we’ve covered some of the most common causes of child injuries on vacation and what parents need to know about asserting their legal rights, is it worth it?

In the vast majority of cases, it will be well worth filing a premises liability claim if your child has been injured on vacation. Simply covering your family’s medical bills could prove challenging, and this alone could make it worth speaking with a lawyer.

But, parents can recover other losses in premises liability cases as well. This includes prescriptions and other out-of-pocket expenses, lost earning capacity, pain and suffering, emotional trauma, and other forms of harm. By filing claims for just compensation, parents can not only cover their costs in the short term, but they can also help ensure that they and their children will have the resources they need in the future.  

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