Understand The Legal Responsibilities of Daycare Centers in Injury Cases in Mercer County and Across New Jersey
While daycare is necessary for most families, dropping off a baby or young toddler at a daycare facility can often be more nerve-wracking for the parents than the child. Parents commonly have a sentiment that no one can care for their child as well as they can, and while, by and large, daycare centers are generally safe and highly regulated by state law, accidents, and injuries do happen.
Is the daycare center legally responsible when a child is injured at daycare? Not always, but sometimes. Answering this question depends heavily on the facts involved in a specific case. Here, our accomplished New Jersey Personal Injury Lawyers at Cohen and Riechelson will provide an overview of the legal responsibilities a daycare center has, the most common types of daycare injuries and their causes, how to identify when a situation was not handled properly by a daycare facility and the ways a daycare facility could be liable for a child’s injuries.
Changing Conditions Impacting Demand for Childcare in NJ
The last several decades in the U.S. have seen an increase in both single-parent homes and dual-income families, in which both parents work outside the home. Some of the changes have been the result of changing gender roles and increased financial demands to keep up with the increasing costs of living. According to U.S. Census statistics, the number of stay-at-home mothers declined from 49% in 1967 to 29% in 2012, with a slight increase to 31% in 2016.
These dynamics have led to a high demand for daycare services. Any parent of young children knows that they need to enroll their child in daycare as soon as possible, or they risk sitting on a long waitlist and being left with few childcare options.
Legal Obligations of Daycare Centers Under New Jersey Law
In 2022, a mother from Passaic County filed a lawsuit against a childcare center, where her then 2-year old son attended. In her lawsuit, the mother alleged that the daycare center’s failure to supervise the 2-year old resulted in the child suffering several injuries, including a broken arm, scrapes, and bruises.
When a child suffers certain types of injuries in a childcare facility, including a bite or breakage of the skin, a head injury, a fall from a height taller than the child, or an injury that requires medical attention, it has an obligation under New Jersey law to document the details of the accident and provide those details to the child’s parents. These details include the child’s name, how, when, and where the accident happened, injuries the child suffered, witnesses, and an account of any first aid or care rendered.
To prevent these types of accidents in the first place, there are also laws in place setting forth criteria for staffing requirements and supervision of the children at daycare facilities.
Typical Injuries that Happen in Daycare Centers
The most common injuries that happen to children at daycare facilities are the same types of injuries that children tend to suffer while playing at home or on the playground. These include scraped knees, bruises, and minor lacerations on the hands. The most common cause for these injuries is a child falling to the ground from tripping on something, running and losing their balance, or simply being uneasy on their feet as a beginning walker.
However, more severe injuries are also possible, including choking, broken bones, head contusions, bite injuries, or more severe bleeding. These more serious injuries are most commonly caused by a child not being properly supervised, falling from a greater height on playground equipment, getting their hands on a dangerous item like scissors, or being bitten, pushed, and hit by another child. Of course, in very extreme cases, it is possible for a child to suffer injuries from intentional physical abuse or neglect from a childcare provider.
Identifying a Daycare Center’s Liability in Child Injury Cases
Parents should be vigilant in identifying signs of negligent supervision, like frequent injuries, a messy environment, and poor communication between staff and parents. They should also trust their gut when they feel something is not right.
Not all accidents causing injuries result in liability to a daycare center. In fact, most injuries suffered by children in daycare are the common scrapes and bruises of childhood. However, if the injury was caused due to an unsafe condition on the property, the negligence of the daycare or its staff members, or the child not being properly supervised, then the daycare center may be liable for the child’s resulting injuries.
Filing a Claim for Your Child’s Daycare Injuries in New Jersey
The above-mentioned scenarios fall under the legal theories of premise liability or negligence. Under premise liability, if there is a known unsafe condition or the owner failed to search the premises to remove any unsafe conditions, they may be responsible for any injuries that a child suffers due to that unsafe condition. For example, if there are large potholes on the sidewalk of the playground and a child falls and breaks their leg, the daycare center may be liable.
A negligence lawsuit is based on a claim that the daycare center fell short of providing a reasonable standard of care through a lack of supervision or otherwise and that negligence was the actual and proximate cause of the child’s injuries. An example of this is negligent supervision, in which a staff member leaves a child unattended and falls from the top of playground equipment, suffering a concussion.
Understanding the Statute of Limitations in NJ Daycare Injury Cases
The parents of a child must bring a claim of negligence or premise liability against the daycare center within two years from the time of the accident or the time the injuries should have been reasonably discovered.
Recoverable Compensation in Daycare Injury Claims
If successful in establishing liability of the daycare facility for the child’s injuries, the parents of the child can recover compensation for the child’s medical bills, any temporary or permanent injuries suffered by the child, physical therapy bills, pain and suffering, and future expenses that are anticipated as a result of the injuries.
Contact our New Jersey Daycare Injury Lawyers at Cohen and Riechelson Today
Having your child injured at daycare is one of a parent’s many fears. Normally, children suffer minor childhood injuries that are no one’s fault, but sometimes, there is much more to the story. If you believe that your child was injured at his or her daycare due to the negligence of the daycare staff, it is important that you protect your child’s interests by seeking the help of a personal injury lawyer.
Our experienced personal injury lawyers at Cohen and Riechelson can examine the evidence in your child’s case and let you know whether the case is actionable and if your child may be entitled to compensation. If you are entitled to compensation, our lawyers will begin working on your claim to help you fully recover your damages. We work on a contingency fee basis, which means that you will not owe any money upfront, and we only earn a fee from a percentage of the award you receive if your case is successful.
No matter where your child’s daycare injuries occurred in New Jersey, including Titusville, Pennington, Hamilton, Ewing, Woodbridge, Princeton, Trenton, and throughout Burlington County, Mercer County, and the greater Southern New Jersey area, our personal injury firm is prepared to assist you in recovering damages for your family. To set up a complimentary consultation, please contact us today at (609) 528-2596 or online.