Over 60% of injuries due to playground equipment occur on public playgrounds, places of recreation, or schools. (1)
“The annual average number of emergency department-treated injuries associated with playground equipment … is estimated to be 247,075,” states a report from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. (2)
Injuries sustained in playground accidents should not be taken lightly. If your child has been seriously hurt you may need the services of a personal injury attorney.
These are some of the common injuries occurring on playgrounds:
Over 50% of playground-related injuries treated in emergency departments are fractures and contusions or abrasions. (3) While scrapes and bruises are very common and often are not considered serious, fractures can be.
The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons warns, “open” fractures — where a bone fragment breaks the surface of the skin — are “particularly serious because once the skin is broken, infection in both the wound and the bone can occur.” (4)
However, much more serious injuries can and do occur. Some of the most serious injuries children suffer in playground accidents are head injuries; these can have lifelong consequences. One study found an average 21,101 children, ages 14 and younger, were treated for traumatic brain injuries (TBI) from playground accidents each year. (5)
Likewise, 1.9 million U.S. children are treated for concussions annually. Most of these injuries are from recreational and sports related activities. (6)
Even more alarming is the fact playground accidents can be deadly. The Consumer Product Safety Commission indicates there were 175 reports of a serious injury “requiring hospitalization or resulting in death” associated with playground equipment. The average age of children who died was seven years old. (7)
Of the 34 investigated deaths, 19 involved hangings and other asphyxiations. Eight involved head and neck injuries. (8) Children often suffer strangulation when clothing, such as sweatshirts with drawstrings, or necklaces get caught on equipment. (9)
New York City Playgrounds
For New York City (NYC) children and their families, playground safety is a big concern.
In a 10-year period, 577 claims were filed against NYC for playground injuries. This represents “an average of over one a week,” according to the Office of the NYC Comptroller. (10)
The breakdown of injury claims, filed by borough, are: (11)
- Brooklyn — 209.
- Manhattan — 123.
- Bronx — 111.
- Queens — 111.
- Staten Island — 23.
Children can suffer multiple injuries from a single piece of equipment. Injury claims occurred more frequently from using certain types of equipment: (12)
- Monkey bars — 10%.
- Slides — 5%.
- Swings — 4%.
And 10% of claims resulted from improper maintenance of this equipment. (13)
NYC paid out over $20.5 million in claims during the period. (14)
Causes of Playground Accidents
A better understanding of playground accidents means looking at what causes them.
Rusty or broken playground equipment is a good sign of poor maintenance, a factor in many playground accidents. Using such playground equipment can result in injuries.
However, there are other reasons accidents can happen. NYC cited these reasons for playground accident claims: (15)
- Defective/broken surfaces/matting, including several claims where children burned their feet on matting in summer months.
- Improper playground design.
- Insufficient maintenance of equipment, such as swings and slides.
- Protruding nails and/or debris.
Additional causes of playground accidents include: (16) (17) (18)
- Absence of barriers or guardrails around elevated areas such as platforms.
- Sharp points and edges on playground equipment.
- Improper ground surfaces around playground equipment.
- Inadequate spacing of rails, bars, rungs, or netting leading to head entrapment.
- Overcrowded play areas where different pieces of playground equipment are placed too close together.
- Inappropriate things in the play area, like tree stumps or rocks, tripping children.
- Unsuitably designed playground equipment, lacking proper safety features and relevant age group needs.
If your child has been seriously injured in a playground accident, you can take legal action to hold the responsible parties liable.
Liability for playground accidents may fall on multiple parties:
- Manufacturers of playground equipment.
- Owners or maintenance workers taking care of the playground.
- Individuals or groups responsible for providing supervision for the child who was injured.
Manufacturers of playground equipment may be held responsible for injuries sustained by a child due to defective design of equipment.
The owners of a playground and those responsible for the maintenance of the playground are obligated to ensure the equipment on their property is safe and well maintained. When the playground is a public playground, the city can be held accountable.
Anyone responsible for supervising children while they were on the playground may be liable. This includes schools, daycare, and child caregivers.
Was your child injured in a playground accident? Call us now for a free consultation.
Playground accident legal cases can fall under premises liability. Premises liability is defined as the “legal responsibility of the owner and/or occupant of real property for injuries that someone may sustain while on the property due to a dangerous or defective condition that exists there.” (19)
For example, if the openings in climbing equipment are not spaced appropriately, your child’s head might become entrapped. This can lead to injury or strangulation.
If the owners of the playground know this is a problem and do not post warning signs, fix the problem, or replace the equipment, they could be held accountable for any child injured while playing.
In a lawsuit, you need to convince the court:
- Your child’s presence on the property was lawful.
- The owner knew of the hazardous condition and did not address it — make repairs, made inadequate or improper repairs, or failed to warn of the hazard through signs or by roping it off.
- The owner’s negligence caused your child’s injuries.
Key to winning a premises liability case is the legal concept of negligence.
By definition, negligence is, “A failure to behave with the level of care that someone of ordinary prudence would have exercised under the same circumstances. The behavior usually consists of actions, but can also consist of omissions when there is some duty to act.” (20)
To establish a case of negligence you must show the court: (21)
- The existence of a “duty of care” was owed you by the owner of the property.
- A breach of the duty occurred.
- You suffered an injury.
- The owner’s breach caused your injury.
Playground accident injury cases can be highly complex and having an attorney can be very beneficial to the outcome of your case.
Most public playgrounds in NYC are owned by the city. So, your attorney must file a “notice of claim” within 90 days of the accident — a preliminary step required when looking to sue the City of New York or any municipal agency/entity.
Next, there is an investigation of your claim by the city. It takes approximately 30 days and usually results in non-action on the city’s part. Then, you are free to file a lawsuit.
After the investigation, your attorney has one year to sue. Then, your attorney represents you in court.
Many accident cases are settled out of court. If that happens, your attorney negotiates a settlement.
What you can do immediately to help your lawsuit:
- Get medical attention right after the accident. A visit to an emergency room provides vital documentation of injuries and expenses.
- Take pictures of the accident site and injuries.
- Get the names and contact information of any witnesses.
- If a police officer is present at the scene, ask for the officer’s name and badge number.
- Obtain a copy of any police reports.
How W&L Can Help
Weitz & Luxenberg is proud of our record of successes helping clients who have been seriously injured.
Some of the case outcomes we are proud of include:
- When a zip line accident deprived a 15-year-old boy of his sight in one eye, W&L recovered $10 million in compensation from the manufacturer of the brake system.
- W&L negotiated a multimillion dollar settlement on behalf of a man who suffered a traumatic brain injury after falling from an open edged apartment building walkway.