You ask your next-door neighbor to watch your toddler while you run errands. Yet, while you are at the store, the babysitter gets a call from her husband over a property dispute. They fight, and in the heat of the moment, the babysitter loses track of your 4-year-old child. While the babysitter is distracted, the child opens the front door, wanders from the house, and gets hit by a passing car.
The babysitter makes a frantic call to you, and you meet the ambulance at the hospital. Your child is alive but suffered multiple injuries, including a head wound. He’s unconscious, and surgeons must operate to relieve pressure from a bleed in your son’s skull.
You sit by his hospital bed for days, waiting for him to wake up. You can’t even think about going to work while you wait for him to wake up. When he does, he isn’t acting like his usual self. The doctor says he suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Only time will tell how well he will recover. It will take therapy, some adaptive medical equipment, and a full-time, one-on-one caregiver. You won’t be able to go back to work.
How will you pay the existing medical bills, let alone future expenses for therapy and care, without the income from your job? Your spouse makes enough for the basics, but you don’t see how your family will get by without your monthly income.
Is it time to call a personal injury attorney? Can you sue your neighbor even though you asked her to watch your kid? Isn’t that what homeowner’s insurance and umbrella policies are for?
The answer is yes, so long as specific criteria are met.
Who Is Responsible For The Child At The Time Of The Accident?
There are obvious limitations on who can responsibly care for a child. An adult with a mental disability that makes them unable to take on that responsibility can’t be negligent if your kid gets hurt. You must choose a physically capable and mentally mature caregiver to care for your child responsibly.
The people that we most commonly see named in negligent caregiver lawsuits include:
- Adult family members such as grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc.
- Hired caregivers like nannies and minor children old enough to be responsible for another child.
- Non-hired temporary caregivers like the parents throwing a birthday party, a neighbor, or a family friend.
- Businesses or organizations such as day care centers or entities running after-school programs, summer camps, sports programs, etc.
What Constitutes Negligent Care?
A judge will look at the case with two questions in their mind. Would any reasonable and prudent person have prevented this accident in the same situation? Did they provide a reasonable standard of care?
Common hazards caregivers are expected to protect a child from include:
Injuries caused by animals, their own, a local domestic animal, or a wild animal. A caregiver should have more control over their own animal and can prevent the child from distressing the animal or secure it in a separate part of the house or yard. If the animal isn’t their own, their responsibility is to supervise the child, so if a strange animal approaches the child, the caregiver can intervene.
Injuries caused by another person, be it the caregiver’s children, spouse, relative, or passersby.
3. Delayed Care
Accidents happen in the safest homes like a toddler hitting their head on the corner of the table or having an allergic reaction to a bee sting. If the child is bleeding or has difficulty breathing, however, the caregiver is expected to render first aid or call an ambulance.
4. Common Hazards
Injuries caused by hazards such as pools, high balconies, guns, open containers of chemical cleaners, etc., are avoidable. The caregiver must guard against common dangers and be present should the child find a threat the caregiver did not expect.
Leaving a child in a car unattended renders them vulnerable to kidnappers or heat stroke. Injuries caused by the caregiver not putting the child in a car seat or seat belt, depending on age and size, are also an avoidable danger.
Not All Accidents Are Negligence
Dangerous items like guns should be secured when a child is present. A stray cat that climbed a fence and got in the backyard is harder to guard against. If the child gets bit while the caregiver takes a bathroom break, and the kids play in a safe and secured backyard, that isn’t negligence.
If the caregiver leaves them out there without supervision for extended periods, isn’t close enough to hear the child cry, or the child can’t get back in the house for medical attention, however, that is another story. The length of time a child is unattended will affect how the judge views the case. Your accident injury attorney will be able to better advise you concerning the specifics of your case.
Not All Lawsuits Go To Court
Many lawsuits are settled out of court because the insurance company knows they’ll lose when facing a legitimate child injury case. When a lawsuit involves a minor, it must still be reviewed by a judge, even if the parties settle out of court. The judge acts as a child advocate.
Not All Settlement Money May Go To The Parent
If the settlement includes money for the injured child’s care beyond adulthood, they may be awarded money for their future needs. Any money allocated to the child rather than the parent is held for them in a trust and turned over to the child when they turn 18 to prevent misuse of funds.
Good personal injury lawyers will work to protect your family’s financial security and get the medical care your child needs. For more information, contact the Salt Lake City personal injury attorneys at LifeLaw.