FindLaw KnowledgeBasePublished: 2012-05-01
Many of us remember childhood as a time bountiful of skinned knees, cuts and bruises. Most kids love to play, despite an underdeveloped sense of coordination, and sometimes this translates into minor injuries borne of a little healthy roughhousing.
Yet, children, especially younger children, are at an acute risk for far more serious injuries from a variety of seemingly innocuous items found scattered throughout many homes. Unlike the bumps and bruises that are endemic to childhood, these injuries are not a part of growing up — they are more commonly the result of adult carelessness.
Often Overlooked Dangers to Children Include Standing Water, Tip-Overs and Exercise Equipment
Homeowners with a pool probably know that young children need to be kept away from the water, or strictly supervised when engaged in aquatic play. However, swimming pool accidents are not the only risk to kids from standing water.
Buckets, pails, bathtubs and other receptacles can pose a risk of drowning when filled with as little as one inch of water. It is not uncommon for very young children to lean over and look into a tub or similar vessel, then trip and tumble in headfirst. Don’t forget the washing machine either — in addition to drowning, burns or injuries to limbs can result when unsupervised children play on or within a washing machine.
A television is another common threat to small children; no, not watching too much of it, but being pinned underneath it when allowed to pull it over. The Consumer Product Safety Commission reported that from 2000 to 2010, 169 children were killed by falling TVs (another 65 deaths during that time period involved other furniture falling on children, mainly chests, dressers or bureaus). As if the fatalities aren’t bad enough, injuries are even more common: in just two years, from 2008 to 2010, more than 22,000 children 8 years old and younger were treated in emergency rooms for injuries resulting from tip-over incidents. The easiest preventative step is placing TVs only on low, sturdy bases; TVs and other furniture can also be anchored to the wall or floor. Nothing that may appear attractive to children (remote controls, toys, etc.) should be kept atop TVs or any other piece of furniture that could potentially tip over.
Exercise is important for kids, but they should never be allowed to use adult equipment. More than 25,000 kids under the age of 14 are injured by exercise equipment every year. Moving parts, hard edges and dangling cords make mechanized items like treadmills or stair climbers particularly hazardous. Personal gyms should be kept off limits to children — and just to be safe, whenever not in use, treadmills and similar equipment should be unplugged and locked with the safety clip removed.
Homeowner Liability for Children’s Injuries
You can take measures to make your own home safer for kids. But what about times when your children are visiting the home of a family member, friend or acquaintance?
When you notice deficiencies in any domestic environment that your child may be exposed to, you can point out your safety concerns to the adult responsible for the home. Of course, you are unable to entirely control what dangers your child could be introduced to outside of your own home.
Premises liability is a branch of law that incentivizes owners or occupiers to ensure that dangerous conditions do not exist on their property. In a nutshell, premises liability means that people permitted onto property can sue the owner for injuries caused by a dangerous condition that he or she negligently created or failed to correct.
Premises liability in not unique to children’s injuries — for example, an adult who slips on an unattended spill may recover damages from the homeowner who negligently failed to clean it up — but the required standard of care may be different when there are children involved. For instance, it may not be negligent for a homeowner to fail to secure his or her TV on a sturdy base when only adult company is present; on the other hand, this same deficiency may in fact amount to negligence with children in the vicinity.
If a homeowner’s negligence results in injury to a visiting child, the homeowner may be held liable for monetary damages arising out of the injury, often including payment for medical expenses and a premium for the child’s pain, suffering and mental anguish. Most homeowners’ insurance policies include coverage to pay for premises liability legal claims.
If Your Child Has Been Injured in Someone Else’s Home, Contact an Attorney
Growing up can be hard — but its difficulty should not be compounded by a serious childhood injury. If your child was hurt outside your home, he or she may be entitled to monetary compensation. Get in touch with an attorney to learn more about premises liability claims and homeowners’ duty to keep their homes safe for children.