Child Care: Determining Injury and Negligence

March 21, 2019 @ 8:00 pm

child care and negligence blog photo

As a parent or guardian, you strive to give your child every advantage possible. That includes choosing what you hope is a quality daycare or after-school program. You’d like to think that you’ve found a safe place with trustworthy caregivers and staff, a licensed facility that honors the rules. What do you do, then, when something seems to be wrong? How do you determine if that something is actually a serious event related to daycare negligence?

Licensing and Liability in Louisiana Child Care

In Louisiana, daycare liability issues can be complex. A facility requires licensing only once it enrolls seven or more children. State law requires that licensed daycare centers maintain commercial liability insurance to cover potential injuries. Smaller unlicensed operations, however, often rely on homeowners insurance policies. The problem with homeowners insurance is that most of these policies carry exclusions for any injuries associated with a home-based business enterprise. Many policies specifically exclude coverage for in-home daycares.

Nevertheless, all daycare providers have a duty to protect the health and safety of the children in their care, with licensing requirements setting the standard.

Laws that Protect Children from Injury at Daycares

Under Louisiana law, daycare facilities and their staff members have a duty to provide care that is appropriate to the enrolled children’s ages and to the circumstances. These trusted individuals must take reasonable precautions to protect the children in their care from harm. On a very specific level, Louisiana’s licensing standards regulate nearly every facet of care to ensure that happens:

  •      Supervision criteria specify physical presence, visual contact and being near enough to intervene, for example.
  •      Child-to-staff ratios limit how many children are assigned to one caregiver, depending on the activity and the children’s ages.
  •      Staff, contractors and trainees must have the required qualifications, training and background checks.
  •      Health, safety and environmental standards govern day-to-day operations and maintenance.
  •      Transportation standards ensure passenger safety checks, passenger logs, and driver and vehicle licensing.

Louisiana law also specifies that when a critical incident affects a child—that is, when anything goes wrong—a center must notify the parent or guardian immediately. What is a critical incident? By definition, critical incidents include any “significant event relating to the health, safety or well-being of any child.” Examples on Louisiana’s list include injuries to a child’s head, neck or eye as well as human or animal bites, broken or dislodged teeth, blood, impaled objects, allergic reactions, unusual breathing, signs of dehydration, high temperatures and any problem requiring professional medical attention.

What To Do If You Suspect Daycare Negligence

Suspicion that your child suffered harm no doubt stirs your emotions. However, to prove that your child’s injury was the result of the daycare provider’s negligence, there are at least three important things to remember:

  1. The daycare provider had a duty to care for your child. Exceptions can include injuries that happen outside defined care hours, for example, or involve staff actions outside their assigned responsibilities. In these cases, another individual or entity may be at fault.
     
  2. The daycare provider failed in some way to provide appropriate care, indicating that the daycare either did something that put your child at risk or failed to do something that would have reduced risk. Witness accounts, interviews, policy and procedure manuals, photos, videos and communications—written or documented—can be key in establishing a breach in duty.
     
  3. As a result of that failure, your child suffered harm. You must get professional medical attention that documents the full extent of your child’s injuries. You will need copies of all examination and treatment reports, test results and bills from each practitioner and specialist. These are vital in establishing an injury’s severity and in recovering past, current and future medical expenses.

To ensure the court sees what you see—especially if a problem is not immediately obvious—you need to begin documenting events as soon as you suspect an issue. It pays to put forth the effort of recording dates, times, names and summaries of conversations because these details often help prove your case.

How To Initiate a Lawsuit Against a Caregiver

We know that establishing liability for daycare injuries can be challenging. Getting appropriate financial compensation for those injuries requires knowledge, experience and determination. Morrow, Morrow, Ryan, Bassett & Haik understand the complexities and pitfalls of the settlement process, and we’ve worked hard to earn our outstanding reputation as trial lawyers. Visit our website, or call 800-356-6776 to schedule a free consultation today.