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Who’s liable if your child gets hurt on playground equipment?

Children let their wild sides out on playground equipment, usually with the enthusiastic encouragement of their parents. Letting your children burn off some energy can mean that they will sleep better or have more appropriate emotional responses to events later in the day. Allowing kids to use playground equipment for their physical and emotional well-being has many benefits.

Unsurprisingly, many parents work frequent trips to playgrounds into their schedules. You may have even chosen a specific daycare provider because your child fell in love with their outdoor playground equipment. So when a playful and fun trip to the playground ends in medical treatment or pain and suffering, it can be devastating for parents.

Although most children in the Buffalo area enjoying playground equipment will have a fun and safe time, some children could get hurt. Playgrounds are the cause of more than 200,000 serious injuries every year.
What rights do you have if your child gets hurt while on a playground? Could you file a personal injury lawsuit? Who is held liable for your child’s injury? The answer depends on if the child is injured at school, at a business, or elsewhere.

What If My Child Gets Injured on the Playground at School?

Schools have a responsibility to keep their kids safe. Even bus drivers undergo rigorous training to care for kids safely. Community playgrounds and school playgrounds should always be in safe operating conditions if they are open to the public. Routine inspections and maintenance are necessary to ensure the safety of those enjoying the facilities. From replacing worn saddles on swings to tamping the earth around climbing equipment, there are many requirements to maintain safe playgrounds. In fact, the law states that school districts are required to practice a certain duty of care when maintaining and creating these areas. 

When a child gets hurt on a school playground because of inadequate oversight by teachers and recess aides, the family may have grounds for a claim based on negligence supervision. If a child gets hurt because of poorly-maintained or damaged playground equipment at a public playground or park, that could also be actionable. In either case, the school can be held liable if it is proven in a lawsuit. 

Unfortunately, school injuries are common, and children always incur a higher risk as they are not old enough to determine danger for themselves. Because they are somewhat delicate, they are at a higher risk for sports injuries and even food poisoning. Consequently, in some instances, proving a school’s negligence can be tricky. There are insurance policies that help protect both municipal entities and public schools from claims related to playground injuries. Big injuries may even require a civil lawsuit.

If it belongs to a private business or individual

Like at school, children at daycare should be under the direct supervision of the professionals charging for their childcare services. When someone lets children play on their swing set, they should ensure it is safe before doing so. 

Both in the situations where adults didn’t monitor the children properly and where the business or property owner didn’t keep the equipment in good condition, families may have grounds for a premises liability claim after a playground accident.

In some cases, business or homeowner’s insurance may pay for the costs incurred. Other times, families may need to take their claim to civil court for full compensation.

How Does Sovereign Immunity Apply?

In New York, sovereign immunity is a legal concept that shields the state government and its entities, including public schools, from being sued without their consent. Sovereign immunity ensures that the government can fulfill its responsibilities without the constant threat of litigation. However, it’s important to note that sovereign immunity is not absolute and there are exceptions.

Under New York law, the principle of sovereign immunity is codified in the Court of Claims Act. Public schools, being a part of the state government, are generally protected by this doctrine. This means that individuals seeking to file a lawsuit against a public school in New York may face obstacles due to the school’s immunity from certain claims. For this reason and others, it’s important to consult a personal injury attorney. 

Knowing your options and rights when your child gets hurt on someone else’s property will help your family take the right steps to seek economic justice for those injuries.