South Carolina law protects children from harm caused by other people. Adults have a legal and moral obligation to look out for the welfare and safety of children. If your child has been seriously injured in an accident that was someone else’s fault, your family may be able to claim compensation for your child’s medical care and other expenses. It’s important to seek trusted legal guidance.
Unintentional injuries are the leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 14, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). For every child who dies in an accident, 25 are hospitalized with accidental injuries, 925 are treated in emergency rooms, and many more are treated in doctors’ offices. Car crashes, falls, fires, suffocation, drowning, and poisoning are among the most common causes of injuries to children.
Our North Charleston child injury lawyers cannot change what has happened to your child. But we can help you demand all the compensation available by law to pay the medical bills and other needs your child will have. Legal action may focus attention on a public safety issue and prevent other families from suffering harm.
Joye Law Firm is proud to mark more than 50 years of providing trusted legal representation to clients in Charleston and across South Carolina. Our compassionate North Charleston injury attorneys focus on using our legal experience to make a positive impact in the lives of the people we represent and the communities we serve. Our attorneys have received an AV rating from Martindale-Hubbell, the highest rating for legal skills and ethics conferred by the respected legal rating directory. Phone us at (888) 324-3100 or fill out our online form to set up a free consultation about your case.
Common Accidental Injuries in Childhood
There are numerous kinds of serious injuries a child may suffer, including:
- Broken bones (fractures) – Bones break from sudden impacts, such as a fall, a bicycle crash, or a car accident. Broken arms are common because it is reflexive to put your hands out to try to break a fall. In most cases, children’s bones heal well in a cast. However, if the bone breaks at the end, this may damage the growth plate, which regulates future growth. If this part of the bone does not heal properly, the bone may grow at an angle or more slowly than the other bones in the body. Fractures that injure the growth plate may require surgery to minimize the risk of future problems.
- Head injuries – Playing sports is a rite of passage for many children in South Carolina. American children suffer 1 million to 2 million sports- and recreation-related head injuries each year, according to WebMD. For children under 14, the top causes of head injuries are bicycling, football, baseball, basketball, and riding skateboards or scooters. A blow to the head requires medical observation. A concussion is a mild form of traumatic brain injury (TBI), which typically resolves with rest but leaves the individual susceptible to additional concussions and cumulative injury. A more severe TBI can cause ongoing cognitive impairment, behavioral changes, seizures, and other symptoms.
- Burns – Younger children are most likely to be burned by hot liquids or steam, such as from bath water or a pot pulled off of a stove. Older children are likelier to be burned by playing with fire, such as matches, firecrackers, lighters, or fires left unattended. Burns are very painful, and severe burns destroy skin, muscle, and other soft tissue. Serious burns may require reconstructive surgery and often leave psychological and physical scars.
- Drowning/suffocation – Choking, entrapment such as in an abandoned refrigerator, and drowning or near-drowning deprive the brain of oxygen, which causes loss of brain cells. Most infant drownings occur in bathtubs. Toddlers between one and four years old most commonly drown in swimming pools. Swimming pools, decorative ponds, and other water features are considered attractive nuisances because they draw children’s attention. Having a water feature confers extra responsibility on the homeowner. If a child drowns in a neighbor’s pool or a hotel pool in Charleston because the pool is not properly fenced or secured, the pool owner may be legally liable for the accident. Premises liability accidents require a careful examination of the contributing factors by experienced Charleston personal injury lawyers.
- Poisoning – About 1.1 million children younger than six years old swallow or have contact with a poisonous substance each year, the American Academy of Pediatrics says. The CDC says most children who swallow poison are not permanently harmed if they receive immediate treatment, but about two children die from poisoning every day. Children’s caregivers must adequately secure the toxic household items to ensure they do not fall into the hands of active, curious children.
- Dog bites – Children are vulnerable to dog attacks because they are more likely to be curious about a dog and unaware of the potential danger. Young children are less likely to be able to escape or fend off an attacking dog. Dog bites can cause puncture wounds or lacerations. Typically, an attacking dog bites repeatedly, and dogs often claw and knock down their victims, potentially causing head injuries, fractures, or spinal cord injuries.
- Fall injuries – Every child falls at one time or another as they grow and explore. Falls are the top cause of nonfatal injuries among children 19 and younger. More than 2.8 million children are brought to emergency rooms (ERs) across the U.S. annually for fall-related injuries. Roughly 1.2 million of these visits involve children under the age of five. One of the most common consequences of childhood falls is head injuries. They are especially common among babies and toddlers, who are still learning to walk. Roughly 100 children, mostly younger than five, die from fatal fall injuries yearly.
- Struck-by or struck-against injuries – Children get bumped into and struck by objects frequently, especially if they participate in contact sports. Children can suffer broken bones and other severe injuries from getting struck by a fastball or pinned under a heavy object. The CDC data suggests that unintentional struck-by and struck-against injuries are second only to falls as causes of nonfatal injuries. These injuries are the top cause of nonfatal ER visits among children between the ages of 15 and 19 and the second-leading cause among children under 14.
- Motor vehicle accidents – Motor vehicle accidents are one of the leading causes of death among U.S. children and the second-leading cause of death among U.S. teens. According to the CDC, 608 child passengers under 13 died and 91,000 more were injured in motor vehicle accidents in a recent year. Among the children who died in motor vehicle crashes, 38 percent were not wearing proper safety restraints. Nearly a fourth of passenger deaths among children under 15 resulted from alcohol-related crashes. Approximately seven teens aged 13 to 19 die in car accidents every day. Teen drivers between the ages of 16 and 19 are almost three times more likely to be involved in fatal accidents on a per-mile basis.
- Bicycle accidents – Learning to ride a bicycle is one of the joys of childhood, and the occasional scraped knee or bruised elbow is nearly a given. Although many biking accident-related injuries are minor, high-speed collisions can cause severe injuries. A recent study by the Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital suggested that bicycle-related injuries send roughly 25 children to the ER every hour. Researchers reported that despite an overall decline in bike injury rates, 2.2 million bicycle injuries still occurred during the 10-year study period. The vast majority of bicycle accident injuries occurred among children between the ages of 10 and 14 (46 percent), primarily male children. The areas of the body most commonly injured in bike accidents include the upper extremities (36 percent) and lower extremities (25 percent).
- Driveway accidents –Tragically, many children are seriously or fatally injured each year while playing in or around cars parked in driveways, parking lots, and garages. According to Safe Kids Worldwide, every year, more than 9,000 children are treated in ERs for injuries that occurred while they were playing around motor vehicles without adult supervision. A large percentage of these injuries occur when drivers are unaware of the presence of children. KidsandCars.org reports that at least 50 children, mostly 12 to 23 months old, are injured weekly by drivers backing out of driveways or parking spaces. In more than 70 percent of these cases, the driver is a parent or close relative.
- Lacerations and puncture wounds – Laceration is the medical term for a deep cut or tear in the skin. A puncture wound is a deep wound, typically small in diameter and made by a sharp object, such as a nail or a dog bite. Many lacerations and puncture wounds affect the feet, especially when children walk barefoot in hazardous areas. Lacerations and puncture wounds often seem minor. Because these injuries usually cut through several layers of tissue, they can be serious. Many lacerations and puncture wounds get infected when dirt or germs get into subcutaneous tissues. Exposure to rust, soil, or manure can result in a tetanus infection, a dangerous condition that can cause long-term complications.
- Foreign bodies in ears or airways – As infants and young children begin to explore the world, it’s not uncommon for them to put small objects into their ears, nose, or mouth. When a foreign object is lodged in the ear or nose, a child can have difficulty breathing or hearing. Similarly, when a foreign object gets lodged in the throat, it can create a choking hazard and may require surgical removal.
- Accidental swallowing – Accidental swallowing is another common childhood injury. Roughly 100 ER visits per day in the U.S. are due to ingesting foreign objects. Some of the most dangerous objects include sharp objects, such as pins or needles, small batteries that leak toxic chemicals into soft tissues, and magnets, which can damage soft tissues. Dangerous or defective children’s toys or other products for kids can cause serious injuries. If a manufacturer or retailer fails to provide proper safety warnings or labels, families of injured children may be entitled to seek compensation in product liability claims.
Who Is at Fault in a Charleston Child Injury Accident?
Children do not always have the understanding or capability to recognize the risk of injury or death. Parents entrust the care and supervision of their children to other adults such as daycare workers and teachers when the parents cannot be present.
The legal concept of in loco parentis (“in the place of a parent”) protects children when their parents entrust their care to others. It means a caretaker, such as a schoolteacher or daycare provider, is obligated to perform some supervisory duties of a parent.
When a child has been injured while under the supervision of someone other than their parents, South Carolina law provides the child’s parents the right to hold accountable those individuals who failed to uphold their legal duty. An adult who had a duty to safeguard the child may be liable if their carelessness or disregard for safety caused the child’s injury.
Adults who frequently act in the place of the parent include:
- Daycare workers
- Daycare centers
- Youth organizations
- Camp counselors
- Civic groups
- Playground and park operators
Toy manufacturers and makers of other child products have a legal duty to ensure the products they sell are safe when used as intended. They also have an obligation to advise consumers of any potential hazards posed by the product. Manufacturers, distributors, and sellers of defective products in South Carolina are held strictly liable for damages and injuries caused by a product’s defect.
Faulty children’s products, including toys, toy chests, cribs, car seats, strollers, unsafe furniture, playground equipment, and many more children’s items, are frequently the subject of product liability lawsuits because of the injuries they cause.
Can I Sue If My Child Was Injured at School?
From kindergarten through high school, children spend much of their waking lives in classrooms, gymnasiums, and school playgrounds. As a result, it’s no great surprise that a large percentage of childhood injuries occur at school. According to SafeHome.org, more than 175,000 U.S. children visited ERs for school-related injuries over a recent 10-year period.
You may have questions about your legal options if your child has been injured at school.
The answer can vary considerably depending on the circumstances of the injury. For instance, the liability may be different for public schools versus private schools or for intentional versus unintentional injuries.
Generally speaking, you only have grounds to sue a school if you can prove that the school administration or an employee was negligent.
Examples of possible negligence on the part of schools or school employees include:
- School bus accidents caused by bus driver negligence or lack of maintenance
- Playground accidents from poor supervision or defective equipment
- Food poisoning incidents caused by unsafe food storage or preparation
- Slip and falls caused by broken handrails or unattended, slippery walkways
- Asbestos exposure in schools with older structures that haven’t been closed
- Injuries that occur due to a lack of preparedness for natural disasters, such as tornadoes
Who Can File a Child Injury Claim?
Children do not have the legal standing to file personal injury claims on their own.
Fortunately, South Carolina gives parents and guardians the right to file injury claims on behalf of their children. For instance, if a parent or guardian is responsible for paying their child’s medical bills after an injury caused by another party, the parent or guardian can seek compensation from the at-fault party for expenses incurred by the accident.
In cases involving serious injury and substantial medical costs, you may need an experienced lawyer to pursue the financial compensation your family needs. The attorneys at Joye Law Firm can provide compassion and trusted legal guidance to help your family move forward.
Pursuing a Child Accident Legal Claim
An adult or organization in Charleston may be held liable for injuries a child has suffered while under their supervision if evidence shows that the adult’s carelessness, negligence, or recklessness led to the injury. Such a lawsuit would be two separate claims: one on behalf of the injured child and one on behalf of the parents or guardians who are financially responsible for the child.
Each claim would seek compensation for:
- Current and future medical expenses
- Lost income for a parent who has left work to care for their injured child
- Future income losses due to a child’s permanent disability
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
In a wrongful death claim, a party may seek additional compensation for funeral and burial costs.
Serious injuries to a child often require us to look to the future. A child who has been disabled or disfigured will suffer lasting harm and expenses. The child may require assistive devices, special education, and medical procedures, some of which may be delayed while the child grows and matures.
A seriously injured child or disfigured child will miss out on the carefree childhood that many children enjoy and may continue to face limitations as a youth or adult. A severe injury may preclude participation in organized sports and other recreation, limit higher education and employment choices, and provide fewer opportunities for dating, marriage, and having a family.
The injured child’s loss of enjoyment of life should be considered when seeking compensation for pain, suffering, and emotional distress. Parents may also be entitled to separate compensation for their distress in watching their child suffer.
Contact Our Charleston, SC, Childhood Personal Injury Law Firm
If your child has been seriously injured in an accident in Charleston while under another adult’s supervision, it is important to understand your legal rights. You may be entitled to seek compensation for your child’s medical expenses and other costs and losses. Since 1968, the North Charleston personal injury lawyers of Joye Law Firm have helped accident victims in Charleston, North Charleston, and across South Carolina. Our knowledgeable legal team has helped recover millions in compensation for personal injury victims and children injured due to someone else’s carelessness.