It is a great responsibility to take in other people’s children as a daycare center operator, especially when children are very young. Most parents have a hard time safeguarding their own children in their own home, let alone a group of other people’s children so it requires a high level of skill in planning and management to start a daycare center.
A daycare center and other types of childcare facilities are essentially designed to provide supervision, but as indicated on the website of law firm Crowe Mulvey they are also expected to exercise reasonable care in ensuring their safety while on the premises. This includes taking steps to provide safe activities and toys appropriate for the child’s age, removing from or securing potential sources of danger in the vicinity of the children, and to keep an eye on them during play. The childcare provider should also be able to foresee and forestall problems and avoid risky situations that would be apparent to any reasonable adult.
Each state has its own set of parameters for determining liability of childcare facilities. In general, the owner or operator of a childcare facility may be held liable for child injuries that occur on premises if:
- There was a breach in the duty of care i.e. allowing a small child to play with toys with small parts designed for older children, and the child suffers an injury from swallowing one or more parts. This is considered negligence.
- The childcare center violated a safety regulation specific to childcare facilities i.e. insufficient adult to child ratio and that resulted in inadequate supervision leading to child injuries. This is designated as negligence per se because violating the law is an act considered inherently negligent.
There is reasonable inference that an injury could only have happened because of negligence even if there is no evidence of how an injury actually occurred. This is based on a legal theory called res ipsa loquitur which is Latin meaning “the thing itself speaks.” An example would be a one-year-old child who was dropped off without incident at a day care center in the morning but was unresponsive when picked up by the parent at lunch time and upon examination was discovered to have sustained severe head trauma. While the child could not relate what happened and the daycare staff denied that any wrongdoing or accident occurred, it was apparent that there was negligence.
If your child suffered injuries while at a childcare center and you suspect negligence, take steps to understand your legal position. Consult with a child injuries lawyer in the area at the earliest opportunity.