Charlotte Day Care Accident Lawyer

Child CareIt can be difficult to leave your child in someone else’s care.  When choosing the right Charlotte daycare facility, working parents must consider several factors, including cost, hours of operation, location, type of care (in-home or daycare center), and the most important concern, adherence to the required staff-child ratios. It is a violation of NC State Law to exceed the statutory guidelines of staff-child ratios, and it jeopardizes the safety of the children. If your child was injured while in the care of a daycare center, our Charlotte daycare injury lawyers can inform you of your rights and options during your free consultation.

Injuries to Children at Daycare

The leading cause of injuries to children at daycare centers is inadequate supervision. A single distraction of a staff member can mean a serious injury for your child. Imagine the caregiver is distracted and a child starts to climb on something and falls from a height or pulls something down on himself, or worse. In September 2013, a three-year-old attending daycare in Lancaster, SC, was airlifted to Charlotte’s Levine Children’s Hospital after nearly hanging himself on the center’s playground. The daycare director said that one end of a jump rope that the boy had tied around the top slide had “somehow” wound up around the boy’s neck and caused the boy to choke as he slid down the slide. This case of improper supervision was not the first for this particular facility, which had 11 previous complaints about failing to report incidents to DSS and improper supervision.

Another potential cause of injuries is untrained staff. Knowing how to care for multiple children in a daycare center is more complicated than some people realize. It’s one thing to care for your own child at home. You know them. You know the kinds of misbehavior to which they are prone. You know about any health problems they have. And you know what scares or distracts them. But a daycare worker doesn’t have such a complete level of knowledge about each child and they will be looking after multiple kids at once. They need specific training in how to handle a wide variety of situations. When this doesn’t happen, they may become overwhelmed or be unable to handle a crisis with one or more kids in their care.

Additionally, there are strict regulations in North Carolina regarding the teacher-to-child ratio, depending on the age group of the children. For example, there should be no more than 5 children for every worker in the 0-12 months age group. In the two-year-old group, there should be no more than ten children for every teacher. In some cases, we find that these regulations were not followed at the time a child was injured. It’s helpful to know the ratios for your child’s age group, so you can tell if the daycare is ever understaffed. If this happens, be sure to inquire about the discrepancy and make alternate arrangements for your child if at all possible.

Abuse in Daycare Centers

While most daycare injuries result from accidents, there are some situations where daycare workers have intentionally abused children. Here are a few local examples:

  • In 2016, a heartbreaking video surfaced of a young child being verbally abused by two daycare workers at an East Charlotte facility. More videos showing even worse abuse were found later.
  • In 2020, a Huntersville couple was horrified to find their 3-year-old covered in bruises, including one in the shape of a hand. After checking the video from their son’s daycare, they learned their child had been assaulted by a worker. They met with the daycare, authorities were contacted, and the worker was eventually arrested and disqualified from any future childcare work by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). This case was especially alarming because the daycare had a five-star rating and was outfitted with cameras, which may have given parents a false sense of security.
  • In 2021, a Stanley mother found her 18-month-old son covered in scratches and bruises after picking him up from an in-home daycare. She called police, who investigated and later charged the daycare worker with child abuse.

Abuse in daycare centers may happen because the center was negligent. For example, they may have failed to follow strict state regulations about screening and performing background checks on workers. Poor supervision of workers or an overworked staff may make it easier for an employee to harm a child without anyone noticing.

 What Can You Do to Protect Your Child From Daycare Abuse or Accidents?

It’s always a good idea to thoroughly research daycares, meet with the workers, and spend as much time as possible talking with them and observing the facility. Centers that allow parents round-the-clock video access are preferred, but as noted above, cameras do not guarantee that a child will be safe. Once your child begins daycare, continue to be vigilant by taking these steps:

  • Pay attention – to both your child and the staff members – during dropoffs and pickups. It’s normal for kids to be apprehensive on their first day in a new place, but if they regularly seem to dread going to daycare, it’s worth trying to find out why.
  • Do the staff members seem exhausted or stressed on a regular basis? Everyone has bad days, but if everyone is always having a bad day at your child’s daycare, that’s a cause for concern. There may not be sufficient staff or resources, putting your child at risk.
  • Does your child’s mood often change from dropoff to pickup? Do they regularly seem happy at dropoff, but in a bad mood when you pick them up? Did a child who used to be happy about being dropped off suddenly become shy, anxious, or express a desire not to go? Is the child suddenly asking questions or making comments about sex that seem inappropriate for their age? Has your child had any overall behavioral changes, like regression, sudden nightmares, or mood changes, since starting at the facility? If so, you should gently ask the child questions and try to figure out what’s going on.
  • Does the child always seem to be excessively hungry or thirsty when you pick them up? Kids can have big appetites, especially when going through a growth spurt, but if they always seem ravenous, the facility may not be feeding them appropriately. By state law, daycares are required to offer food every 4 hours.
  • If your child is old enough to talk, make a point to regularly ask them about their day at the center. Do this as soon as you get in the car to go home. Ask them questions like, “What did you do at daycare today?” “Did you have your usual teacher?” “How was your field trip to the park?” “Who did you play with?” This gets your child in the habit of telling you about what happens in daycare so you’ll know if anything unusual occurs.
  • If your childcare facility offers video monitoring, check it as often as possible. Try to check in at random, different times each day. When you can’t watch live, review the recordings later if they’re available.
  • Be on the lookout for any unusual bruises or injuries, especially if they keep happening and seem to go beyond the usual level of childhood bumps and scrapes.
  • If your child is an infant, be aware of the signs of Shaken Baby Syndrome: Extreme irritability, trouble staying awake, breathing difficulties, changes in eating or loss of appetite, vomiting, bluish or pale skin, seizures, paralysis, or coma. Call your child’s doctor right away if you notice any of these.

What Should You Do If Your Child Is Hurt At Daycare Or You Suspect Abuse Or Negligence?

First, get medical attention for your child’s injuries. Even if the injuries seem minor, it doesn’t hurt to get them checked out. In some cases, especially with infants or very young children, the child may seem fine but display severe symptoms later.

Next, ask the daycare facility for a copy of their accident or incident report on the injury. Your childcare center should have a policy on creating this kind of report after an incident – if they don’t, that should be cause for concern. Ask to see where the accident happened and take pictures if possible. Talk to the worker or workers supervising when the injury occurred and inquire about what steps are being taken to prevent future accidents. Remember that under North Carolina law, you have the right to enter the facility any time your child is there.

If your child was seriously hurt or you suspect abuse, we recommend making other childcare arrangements while you figure out what happened. In the meantime, talk to other parents whose children go to the childcare center. Have they noticed any similar issues? Was their child ever hurt at the facility?

Who Is Responsible For The Medical Bills If Your Child Is Hurt At Daycare?

If the daycare was negligent in any way that led to your child’s injury, they may be liable for the associated medical expenses, as well as other damages, such as your child’s pain and suffering. It’s likely that the daycare has insurance for this situation, and we will typically begin by filing a claim with the insurer. In some cases, we may also suggest a lawsuit against the daycare itself or a third party.

You can file two claims, one for the medical bills you will be expected to pay as the child’s parent, and one for the child’s damages. If these claims are successful, any money paid on your child’s claim will usually be directed into a trust until they’re 18, but in some cases, your attorney may be able to work out a structured settlement. Compensation for the medical bills should be made available to you when the judgment is paid.

Day Care Responsibilities Under North Carolina Law

All North Carolina daycare centers must be licensed under North Carolina law and conform to strict rules laid out by the Department of Social Services. These rules can be found at the North Carolina Division of Child Development and Early Education. When a center meets the minimum statutory requirements, it is awarded a one-star license. When a facility voluntarily meets higher standards, it may be awarded a license between two and five stars. To find specific information such as the star rating on a particular facility, visit the NC Childcare Search.

Failure of Daycare Centers to Keep Their Facilities Aligned with State Law

The unfortunate reality of many daycare centers is that they do not keep up with state regulations. The DSS visits each daycare center in North Carolina twice a year unannounced, and the department also relicenses each facility during an additional visit. The reason for these investigations is to notify daycare centers of violations and subsequently, the DSS can monitor and work with the facility to make sure those violations are corrected.

Hiring an Experienced Day Care Injury Law Firm

We know that your child’s welfare is the most important thing to you. Partner Arlene Auger is the lead trial attorney on daycare injury cases at Auger & Auger. Having two children of her own attend daycare, she is committed to fighting for the rights of daycare victims. Attorney Auger has dedicated the past 20 years to protecting the rights of children injured at daycare and has made several substantial settlements and awards for her clients.

“If your child was injured while under the supervision of a daycare facility, you may be entitled to recover damages from the daycare center. Once you retain our services, we will investigate the accident, the facility, and the employees to determine fault. If the daycare center was negligent, we will fight for your rights to compensation for your child’s injury, including pain and suffering, permanent injury, medical bills (past and future), and your lost income while caring for your child,” attorney Arlene Auger said.

Call Auger & Auger Accident and Injury Lawyers today at (704) 364-3361 if your child was injured while attending a North Carolina daycare facility, or fill out our online form for a free review of your case.