Dangers on the Playground Parents Need to Know
Taking the kids to the playground at the local park on a summer afternoon is a scene common to many parents. Parents living in suburban and urban areas will typically tout the valuable role playgrounds have in the lives of their children, and urban families may find that area playgrounds are the only outdoor spaces their children have to run around in a safe environment. Given the importance of these venues to many families, parents may be surprised to learn that playgrounds pose a serious risk of injury to their children. If an injury occurs, it may be necessary to file a personal injury lawsuit. Recent studies and reports in the news document the prevalence of playground accidents, and found that the number of traumatic brain injuries has significantly increased from 2005-2013. Most of these incidents occurred on the monkey bars and swings and resulted in more children visiting the emergency room. If there is an accident, there are typically two areas of the law that could form the basis of a lawsuit – product liability and premises liability. An overview of how each area of the law applies in these situations and some factors that affect how these suits proceed will follow below.
The manufacturers of playground equipment have a duty to ensure the items are safe for children to use, and companies can be held liable if the equipment was improperly designed, defectively manufactured, or lacked appropriate warnings. Design defects occur if the initial plan for the equipment included an inherently unsafe aspect to it that would be present in every one made. Defective manufacturing refers to incorrect construction or assembly that results in an item that does not adhere to the original design. Finally, failure to include proper warnings or instruction is considered a marketing defect. The lack of a warning is considered a defect if the inclusion of such information could have reduced or avoided the likelihood of injury. One common and important defense manufacturers bring in these cases is to say the plaintiff’s misuse caused the injury, and not the equipment itself.
Premises liability relates to the duty property owners have to ensure the grounds are safe for use by the public. Thus, in the case of playgrounds, schools and governments, the entities typically responsible for these structures, must make sure the equipment is properly maintained and free from issues that could injure a child. So, the first big issue when a playground accident occurs is figuring out who has responsibility or control over the premises. If it is a state or local government, the case becomes more complicated because of sovereign immunity laws. These laws limit the amount of liability a governmental agency or department will assume for injury. In Florida, the government will not pay punitive damages or interest in personal injury lawsuits, and the most it will pay for any claim is $200,000 per incident. Further, before a lawsuit may be filed the injured party must provide written notice of his/her claim to the appropriate agency so it first has the opportunity to offer a settlement or deny the claim. The amount of time a person has to initiate a suit against the government is just three years for an injury and two years if there is a death.
Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer
If your child was injured on a playground, talking to a personal injury lawyer can help you determine if filing a lawsuit is the correct course of action. The Miami law firm of Pita Weber & Del Prado handles many types of personal injury lawsuits, and can advise you on the merits of your case. Contact us for a free consultation.