When Is It Possible to Sue if a Child Is Injured on a Playground?

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By Marcus Fernandez

Children often experience minor injuries throughout their lives as they play, with small bruises or scrapes bound to develop from time to time. However, preventable serious injuries could change a child’s life permanently if negligence factors into an accident.

The playground is one of the most common locations for injuries. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 200,000 children are injured per year on playgrounds, with injuries ranging from minor cuts and scrapes to more serious injuries.

You may wonder if it’s possible to file a claim for a playground injury. It’s important to know what options are available to you as a parent in the event of an injury.

Types of Injuries a Child Can Sustain on a Playground

There are several types of injuries that children may suffer in accidents on playgrounds. While a majority of injuries may be minor, sometimes they can be serious enough to warrant medical attention and hospitalization.

Some potential causes of playground accidents include:

  • Trip Hazards. Any uneven surfaces in playgrounds on equipment or the ground could cause tripping and subsequent injuries.
  • Entrapment Hazards. Some openings that are too tight to allow a child to fit through completely could still be large enough to trap a part of a child’s body.
  • Inadequate Protective Surfacing. Protective surfaces help prevent burns and injuries from screws or other components while using the playground equipment. Improper surfacing could cause a variety of mild to serious injuries.
  • Entanglement Hazards. Unsecured components such as chains, strings, and ropes could put children at risk of entanglement while using playground equipment.
  • Improper Fall Zone Protections. Soft padding is often used to help cushion children’s falls from equipment. A lack of fall zone protections could result in falls and serious injuries, including broken or fractured bones, lacerations, or traumatic brain injuries (TBIs).

How Premises Liability Applies to Playground Accidents

Most playgrounds fall under the responsibility of either schools or local governments, who need to make sure that children are consistently safe at these locations. Schools and governments need to protect children from any predictable dangers or injuries with regularly maintained and well-constructed equipment that’s properly installed. Suing a playground for injuries would involve premises liability law.

Succeeding in a premises liability case against a playground would involve proving several things, including:

  1. The defendant is in control of the property and oversees the mitigation of safety risks. 
  2. The child injured on the playground had the right to use the equipment and be on the property at the time of the accident. 
  3. The defendant failed to exercise a standard duty of care to prevent avoidable injuries and dangers and ensure the equipment was safe for use. 
  4. The injury was predictable because of faulty equipment. 
  5. The injury directly resulted from the defendant’s actions or inaction. 

Defects in Construction or Design

Plaintiffs in premises liability cases may also be able to identify a specific type of defect that puts users at risk.

For instance, a defect in design would indicate that the playground was dangerous from initial conception. Subsequently, other playgrounds sharing the same design would also be faulty based on the defective design. One design flaw that could cause injury may be inadequate spacing between sections of the equipment, which could present falling, entrapment, or other hazards.

Construction defects, meanwhile, mean that while the design might be safe, the execution of construction was inadequate, resulting in the installation of unsafe equipment.

In cases involving defects, the contractor or manufacturer that designed or constructed the equipment may be at fault.

Determining Liability in Playground Injury Cases

It can be difficult to prove liability in a playground injury case. While schools or local governments may be responsible, other cases could involve design or construction defects. These defects could fall under the responsibility of manufacturers or construction companies. Some cases may also involve teachers who failed to provide supervision when required. Or they could involve park owners or maintenance companies or daycare facilities.

When Negligent Supervision Results in Injuries

Some playground injury cases could involve daycare or school staff who fail to provide proper supervision. If a child is injured because of the staff’s failure to supervise when needed, staff members could be responsible for the injuries.

Caregivers and teachers are required to take practical steps to prevent injury to children who are under their supervision. Parents may be able to file a claim or lawsuit against negligent care providers under certain circumstances, including:

  • When a party explicitly agrees to supervise children and assumes the responsibility in the event of injury. 
  • If a party fails to adequately supervise children and prevent potential injuries. This is often due to lack of attention while engaging in another activity such as using their phone. 
  • When the failure to supervise directly results in injuries that were otherwise avoidable. 

Plaintiffs must prove that the defendant’s negligence was directly linked to the child’s injuries.

Consult with a Lawyer to Discuss a Playground Injury Case

Children should be safe when using playground equipment, but negligence can result in potentially devastating injuries. It’s important to consult with a personal injury attorney who may be able to help you build a case. Holding the right parties accountable in the event of a playground injury could also help prevent future accidents. Contact an experienced personal injury lawyer at Kinney, Fernandez, and Boire Law for a free consultation.