My Child Was Injured on a Playground: What Happens Now?
Thousands of children under the age of 14 find themselves in hospital emergency rooms every year as a result of injuries they sustained on playgrounds, according to the CDC. Most playground injuries are minor bumps, bruises and scrapes, but the types of injuries that send parents and kids scrambling to the ER are far more serious. In fact, the rate of severe playground-related injuries is higher than that of vehicle and bicycle accidents.
Most Common Types of Injuries
Children can fall while swinging or climbing, or they can slip off the jungle gym, slides or rock walls. They might hit the ground or fall against other playground equipment. Kids can get tangled in swings or suspension bridges, or they can trip on stairs.
A child’s injuries can be severe and may include:
Head injuries or concussions
Playground Injury Causes
Not only can playground injuries be diverse, the underlying causes of the injuries are also frequently varied. However, most fall into two categories: equipment failure or failure to supervise.
Poorly Designed or Maintained Equipment
Today’s play equipment looks much different from the equipment that previous generations used and for good reason. The playgrounds of the past were made for fun, but as technology advanced, so did safety features. Today’s playgrounds often include soft falling surfaces, age-appropriate activities, guardrails and spacious play areas that are free of trip hazards. Older playgrounds are less likely to include certain safety features and may be inherently more dangerous for children. Nothing lasts forever, including playground equipment, which is why maintenance is so important. Wooden parts can splinter or rot. Metal can rust and weaken. Rubber cracks and breaks. Rope frays and tears, and screws and bolts loosen. Daily weather changes, heavy use and the passage of time all take their toll on a playground and can lead to dangerous situations for children and their caretakers. Regular inspections and proper maintenance are critical to keeping playgrounds and equipment safe for their users.
Even a brand-new playground with all the latest safety features and properly maintained equipment can still be a dangerous place for children if it lacks proper supervision.
Play areas give young children opportunities to build their strength and coordination, but they do not necessarily know their own limits. They do not understand the cause and effect of running too fast on slippery surfaces, and they might not have the impulse control to stop climbing when they get too high. Proper adult supervision is critical to keeping children safe on playgrounds. Each individual case should be evaluated based on the children playing and the specific activity and environment. Failing to provide appropriate supervision and protect the children’s safety can result in an injury.
Determining Negligence and Liability
The CPSC, or Consumer Products Safety Commission, has created a set of standards for playground equipment, and several states have also set minimum standards for the design and maintenance of playgrounds. The designers and builders are responsible for ensuring the site meets these specifications.
If a playground does not meet those standards, those deemed to be negligent can all be held responsible, including:
The makers of any parts or materials
The construction crew
Any other entities responsible for creating or building the site
Playground owners can be determined to be negligent if they did not properly maintain the site. Owners include private entities, nonprofits, government entities and other organizations. As owners, their job is to maintain and update the play areas as needed and required by law.