A Closer Look at Playground Injuries

by | Sep 20, 2020 | Injuries

Most people do not associate these two events. But each year, hundreds of thousands of kids are rushed to hospital emergency rooms. Burn injuries, broken bones, and head injuries are among the most common types of wounds. These injuries often require extensive hospital stays and lengthy physical therapy stints, especially if the victim is a young child.

Due to the severity of these injuries, a Lexington personal injury attorney might be able to obtain substantial compensation for these families. This compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Because of the nature of these injuries, as well as the fact that they are fairly easy to prevent, compensation in playground injury claims is often quite high.

Damages Available

Playground burn and head injuries are very preventable. A simple, non-toxic spray treatment prevents slides, swings, and other playground equipment from getting too hot. And, a soft surface prevents most fall-related head and spine injuries.

When they learn these things, many Fayette County jurors are almost outraged, especially if they have small children at home.

Compensation needs to be high because a catastrophic injury also triggers catastrophic medical bills. The lifetime cost of a serious spine injury could be close to $5 million. That’s just the direct costs. Many of these victims are unable to work and build lives for themselves. Such a lifestyle also means almost never-ending pain and suffering.

These damages are unavailable, and families must fend for themselves in the future, unless an attorney establishes negligence, or a lack of care, and refutes some common insurance company defenses.

Establishing Negligence

Playground owners are financially responsible for these damages if they knew about the injury-causing hazard, they had a legal duty toward the victim, and negligence caused the injury.

The knowledge element could be actual knowledge of the hazard. Examples include inspection reports pointing out the danger of a hard surface or prior injuries on that playground equipment.

Additionally, victim/plaintiffs can use circumstantial evidence to establish constructive knowledge (should have known). If the hazard existed for quite some time, an employee should have learned about it and should have remedied the situation.

Assume Jolene slips and falls on a piece of lettuce that fell on a grocery store floor. If the lettuce was wet and crisp, it probably just fell. Therefore, there is no constructive knowledge. However, if the lettuce was dry and wilted, indicating it had been on the floor for more than a few minutes, a grocery store employee should have cleaned up the spill.

The jury must resolve questions of fact, like knowledge of the hazard. The judge resolves legal questions, such as the landowner’s duty. To determine legal responsibility, Kentucky law divides victims into:

  • Invitees (persons who have permission to be on the land and whose presence benefits owners),
  • Licensees, (permission but no benefit), and
  • Trespassers (no permission and no benefit).

Some playground injury victims are invitees, especially if a church, homeowners’ association, or other private entity owned the playground. In these situations, the landowner has a duty of reasonable care. That’s one of the highest duties in Kentucky law.

Other victims are licensees, especially if a public entity, like a city or county government, owned the waterpark or playground. The owner’s duty is more limited in these cases. Owners must only warn victims about latent (hidden) defects.

Still other victims are trespassers. Normally, landowners do not owe any duty to trespassers. But several legal doctrines, such as the attractive nuisance rule, protect child trespassers by elevating the duty of care.

The final piece of the puzzle – negligence – is often rather straightforward. But playground injuries often have no witnesses. So, many insurance companies claim that the injury was simply an accident.

The res ipsa loquitur doctrine often comes into play in these situations. Negligence presumptively caused the injury if:

  • Negligence usually causes the injury,
  • The defendant had exclusive control over the premises, and
  • The victim was not contributorily negligent.

All these elements are usually present in playground injury claims. And, victim/plaintiffs must only establish these elements by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not).

Playground injury victims might be entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Lexington, contact the Goode Law Office, PLLC. Attorneys can connect victims with doctors, even if they have no insurance or money.