Charleston Childcare Accident Lawyer

Daycare has taken an abrupt turn over the past few decades, from a few licensed facilities in commercial districts to childcare homes spread through neighborhoods proximate to school zones. Increasing childcare options may benefit many parents, but your child’s safety is always the primary concern. As a parent, you do your best to choose a safe and healthy environment for your child, but unfortunately, sometimes children are injured while at daycare.

The Charleston childcare accident lawyer team at Auger & Auger is dedicated to providing a thorough investigation into any incident where your child has been neglected or harmed. We will pursue a civil court case on your behalf so that you may receive compensation for your child’s injury, medical treatment charges (past, present, and future), therapy, and pain and suffering.

Childcare Laws in Charleston

We hear news stories about negligence, abuse, or injuries in childcare facilities – and the fairly rapid shutdowns that follow. But not much is said about consequences, meeting reopening requirements, and when it is safe to return. Childcare homes are hardly ever mentioned in the media, and the public seems unaware that the regulations are the same as the institutions we have relied on for so long.

You have a right to know the statutes in South Carolina code law for childcare homes and facilities and what to expect.

The purpose of Chapter 13 of Title 63 of the South Carolina code law is to establish minimum regulations for the care and protection of children placed in childcare facilities, to ensure the laws are maintained, and to approve the administration and enforcement necessary to regulate these conditions. You can see the full extent of the regulations at these links.

Under this section (63:13-620), those who regularly care for up to 6 children of more than one unrelated family in their home must register with the Department of Social Services (DSS), which must be annually renewed. The home must have a working phone number and pass fire, sanitation, and childcare licensing inspections to qualify. The operator must have First Aid and CPR certification, and all family members 15+ years old and any other caregivers must pass state and federal fingerprint checks. Additionally, three letters of reference plus zoning board approval are required.

The Daycare Center’s Duty of Care

In any personal injury case, it’s necessary to show the other party had a duty of care to behave responsibly and avoid situations that put others at risk. In a car accident case, you might argue that the other driver had a duty to drive carefully and avoid reckless behavior that could cause an accident, like driving drunk or running a red light. In the case of a daycare center injury, you would need to show that the childcare center had a duty to prevent a foreseeable injury to the child. There are two important questions you and your attorney will need to answer:

How Was the Child Injured and What Was the Cause?

In other words, what situation allowed your child to be injured? For example, a child might get hurt if the daycare worker in charge was distracted or not paying attention. This may not be the worker’s fault – sometimes, the issue is a lack of adequate staffing at the facility. If one person is left in charge of too many small children, they won’t be able to keep an eye on all of them no matter how hard they try. South Carolina has specific staff-to-child ratios that childcare centers must follow, based on the age of the children involved. If the daycare facility failed to follow these guidelines and did not have enough staff for the number of kids in their care when the accident occurred, negligent supervision may be the cause of injury in your case.

However, there are many other potential causes of injury in daycare:

  • Failure to maintain playground or other equipment or furniture in the facility. If the staff doesn’t fix problems as they arise, children may be at risk from broken or malfunctioning objects, such as a chair that might collapse, a swingset that’s rusted or unstable, etc.
  • Lack of childproofing. Even well-maintained objects can sometimes be harmful to kids without the proper precautions. Stairwells and entryways need appropriate childproofing, and any other potential hazards should be addressed. For example, failing to use outlet plugs or covers on all electrical outlets could be dangerous to a curious child too young to understand the risk.
  • Failing to properly store cleaning chemicals or any other potentially toxic substance that could harm a child. Of course, it’s important that childcare facilities clean often to reduce the spread of germs, but cleaning products can be dangerous if left out where kids can get into them. Similarly, if the facility is tasked with giving a child their medication throughout the day, these medications should be locked up where kids can’t get to them.
  • Poor storage of potentially dangerous items. This includes issues like leaving scissors or other sharp objects out where kids can grab them, or leaving large, heavy objects where they might fall on a small child.
  • Failure to keep up with recalls on toys or items that should no longer be used.
  • If the childcare facility uses vehicles to transport children, failing to properly maintain the vehicles and/or car seats may also be a cause of injury.

Was the Accident Foreseeable?

Sometimes accidents just happen, and there is no way a reasonable person could see them coming. However, in many childcare facility cases, it is possible to foresee that a child might be injured in a specific situation. The facility might have been negligent if this was the case in your child’s injury.

Proving that an accident was “foreseeable” often involves taking testimony from the daycare employees who were present the day of your child’s accident, going over any video footage of the incident, and possibly talking to a medical expert about how the type of injury your child had usually occurs.

Common Daycare Injuries

Unfortunately, there are many ways for small children to get hurt, especially in a busy place like a daycare center, making it even more important for the facility to practice vigilance. Here are some common injuries we see in these cases:

  • Playground injuries are a typical part of childhood, but in some cases, they may be more serious than a scraped knee. A fall from a jungle gym or swing set could lead to broken bones or a head injury. Proper supervision by childcare staff is the best way to reduce the risk of playground injuries.
  • Objects falling off desks or tables. A small child may reach up to grab something and dislodge a heavier object like a paperweight or a sharp pair of scissors. Daycare workers should keep any potentially dangerous items away from the edge of the table and move them toward the center. Sufficient staffing is also important, so there are enough adults present to stop a child from trying to climb on a table or grab something off of it.
  • Burns from bottle warmers. When thinking about the dangers at daycare, most parents don’t stop to consider how a baby or toddler may be fed. Often a childcare facility will use large warmers meant to heat several bottles at once. These may contain scalding hot water, which can burn a child if they get too close and tip over the warmer. In severe cases, the child may even suffer second or third-degree burns. Failing to block off the kitchen or keeping the bottle warmer in the playroom can increase these risks.
  • In another kind of feeding accident, a child might choke on a piece of food at any time. The person in charge of preparing meals and snacks should be careful to cut up solid food into small pieces, which are easier to chew and reduce the risk of choking. Additionally, all staff should be trained in handling a choking emergency with a child, and an appropriate number of workers should supervise meal times. If these three things don’t happen, your child may be at risk of being unable to breathe for an extended period of time. Food isn’t the only potential threat – when young children are around toys with small parts made for older kids, they may put these in their mouths and choke.
  • This may happen if cleaning chemicals, medication, or any harmful substance is left out where kids can get their hands on it.
  • Walking into furniture. If the playroom has furniture with sharp edges, these can be a hazard for little kids, resulting in bruises or lacerations.

Daycare Facility Abuse

So far we’ve talked about accidents that happen at daycare. No one wants to think that a childcare worker will intentionally hurt their child, and South Carolina DSS has rules about running background checks on childcare employees to reduce this risk. But in some situations, abuse or neglect may happen anyway. Here are some steps you can take to help protect your child:

  • Choose a facility that offers a round-the-clock camera feed so you can check in on your child periodically. If the facility records the video and saves it on a portal where you can sign in and watch it any time, that’s even better.
  • Try to check the camera at different times of day if at all possible.
  • Drop in to visit your child unexpectedly from time to time.
  • When you pick your child up from daycare, ask them about their day and what they did. Get them to tell you about what went on at daycare each day.
  • Pay attention to your child’s behavior. If they start having behavioral problems or regression, ask if there is a problem at daycare. Consider whether new workers started at the facility when their behavior shifted. Notice if your child seems reluctant to go to a specific worker when you drop them off.
  • If your child comes home with unexpected bruises or lacerations, try to find out what happened. If the child can’t or won’t tell you, call the daycare and ask what happened, then request a copy of the incident report. A childcare facility must create one every time a child is injured, even if the injuries are minor. Review any available video footage.
  • If your child repeatedly comes home with bruises or cuts they didn’t have before, talk to them about why this happens. You may also want to consider finding a new facility.

What If You Signed a Liability Waiver with the Daycare Facility?

This question comes up a lot. Often the daycare will ask you to sign a waiver for various things, including permission to take your child to a hospital in an emergency if they can’t reach you. Many waivers will also include a section saying something to the effect that you understand the daycare isn’t liable if your child is injured there. In most cases, the court will not enforce these “liability waivers,” releasing the facility of responsibility for a potential incident that hadn’t happened yet when it was signed. If you have concerns about the childcare contract you signed, you can ask your attorney to look at it, but it shouldn’t interfere with your ability to file a claim for compensation on behalf of your child. Often the daycare center includes these clauses in the hopes that parents will believe they can’t sue.

Choosing Your Charleston Childcare Accident Attorney

Once you have read through these pertinent areas of law regulating a childcare home or facility – and the eligibility requirements of their caregivers – it becomes quite clear how closely this service is governed in our state. It is, however, up to the parents to request proof of these certifications and report any observations of unseemly conduct or abuse.

As a family firm, Auger & Auger Accident and Injury Lawyers is especially committed to ensuring our community’s children are not harmed by unlicensed or unqualified facilities where you have placed your loved ones. If your child has been harmed or mistreated during their hours under a caregiver’s watch, we want to know about it. Please contact us at your very first opportunity, and receive a free consultation and a Zero-Fee Guarantee; i.e. you pay nothing until we settle your case.

Call (843) 203-5129 today for your free consultation, with no fees due until recovery!