Learn about the different liability rules and fault scenarios that could stem from a playground accident.
Each year in the United States, emergency departments treat more than 200,000 children ages 14 and younger for playground-related injuries. About 45 percent of playground-related injuries are severe, including fractures, internal injuries, concussions, dislocations, and amputations. Approximately 75 percent of nonfatal injuries related to playground equipment occur on public playgrounds, while most occur at schools and daycare centers . Between 1990 and 2000, 147 children ages 14 and younger died from playground-related injuries. Of them, 82 (56 percent) died from strangulation and 31 (20 percent) died from falls to the playground surface. 70 percent of these deaths occurred on home playgrounds.
Though playgrounds are a great place for children to get physical activity and make new friends, they can be risky places with hidden safety hazards. A simple slip on a jungle gym or fall from the slide can result in bruises, broken bones or fractures, concussions, or internal injuries.
Playground injuries can have various causes, such as poorly maintained equipment. Playground equipment can deteriorate over time, resulting in rusty metal, loose bolts and screws, wood rot, and frail ropes. All of the equipment can become worn from constant exposure to the elements, and equipment could have unexpected slippery surfaces, sharp edges or protruding nails or screws, all of which could easily cause a child to sustain injury, which is why it is important for playground equipment to be properly inspected and maintained.
Playground equipment can be dangerous before it is worn if it was poorly designed. A risk present in any playground design is that the child can fall off equipment or simply while running across the playground. This is why it is very important for playgrounds to include soft falling surfaces as a safety aspect in it’s design.
Supervision also plays an important role in playground safety. There needs to be an adequate level of supervision that is appropriate for the age of the children, and for the risk level associated with the playground equipment. If a child is injured as a result of poor adult supervision, there could be grounds for a negligence claim.
If a child is injured from playing on a playground, identifying the responsible party depends on a few factors. First of all, find out who owns the playground. If the playground is in a public park, it is likely owned by the town, city, or county. Playgrounds at national parks are usually maintained by the federal government.
School playgrounds are owned by the school district. If the playground is at a private school or day care, usually it is owned by a church or other not-for-profit entity. If he playground is at a restaurant, it will be owned by the national restaurant chain or local franchising company. Any of these entities could be responsible in case of a playground injury.
However, you will need to know who is in charge of design, construction, or maintenance. Often, the entity that owns the playground did not design or construct it themselves. A construction company is often contracted to build the equipment, and the construction company might hire another company to design the equipment and provide the parts. Depending on the nature of the injury, any of the entities involved could be responsible for the injury.