Proving Neighborhood Negligence With Childrens Injuries
During his first year of medical school, Charles Krauthammer went swimming with his brother. He had an accident involving the diving board that severed his spinal cord. He was paralyzed below the neck for the remainder of his life. Krauthammer went on to be a doctor, an author, and a perennial pundit on news television until he died recently from cancer. Doctor Krauthammer was able to overcome his disability. Not everybody can do that. For example, think of the children injured on a different kind of bouncing apparatus, the trampoline.
The Georgia Trampoline Personal Injury Problem Endangering Children
In 1999, the American Academy of Pediatrics, AAP, issued a statement strongly discouraging the recreational use of trampolines at home. They cited the many serious injuries to children including cervical spine injuries which happen most often when there are multiple simultaneous users on the mat, causing users to fall or bounce off the device. Attempts at somersaults or flips on the trampoline also result very often in injury.
Some parents have read this study and the several updates on the dangers associated with the use of these “recreational devices,” but others either have not, or they have chosen to ignore the warnings… take your next door neighbor.
Imagine for a moment that the neighbors recently bought a used trampoline on Craig’s list. They set the device up in their fence-less back yard for their children’s use. To give them the benefit of the doubt, these folks probably instructed their children on trampoline safety. Sadly, they did not give your five-year-old son the same lecture.
Within days and in spite of stern warnings to stay out of the neighbor’s yard and away from the trampoline, your five-year-old son and his friend sneak into the neighbor’s yard so they can access the dangerous new ‘toy.”
When the two little boys begin to feel comfortable with the bounce they experience, your bold son decides to do a back flip in mid-air. The five-year-old brain isn’t capable of understanding physics. The five-year-old doesn’t understand that the law of gravity and the principle of inertia apply to him. The bounces of his friend, as well as his own catapult him off the trampoline where he lands across a cinderblock in the grass. A vertebra in his lower back, also called the lumbar region, is broken and his spinal cord injured.
With any luck your son’s little friend doesn’t try to lift your son or help him to his feet, which would, almost certainly cause further damage or permanent paralysis. Instead, for the sake of your imaginary child, let’s say the little friend races into your kitchen to find you.
The EMTs quickly immobilize your little boy and transport him to the hospital where he undergoes several tests including X-rays, an MRI and a CT scan. After all of this, the doctor lets you know how very lucky your little boy really is.
While the injury may be permanently debilitating and he may lose some or all of the function of his legs and internal systems, you are thankful that the broken bone is low in his back. Had the injury been in his neck or higher up the spine in the thoracic region, your child might have died, become unable to use any of his limbs, or forced to depend upon a ventilator to do his breathing for the remainder of his life.
The Cost of Trampoline Injuries Adds Up With Children
As it works out, after months of healing, therapy, and rehab, your son – now wheelchair bound – is pronounced to be as good as he’ll ever be. He cannot control his bowels or bladder, and in time he may discover that normal sexual function will not be possible for him, but he’s alive and breathing.
The medical costs have been insurmountable. While the boy is considered ‘healed’ you remain hopeful that someday new technology will give him a better prognosis. Meanwhile, he cannot understand why his life is now unbearably different. He cannot play or go outside without help. When he is wheeled to the back yard, he can play catch but only as long as the pitcher throws it directly to him.
This little boy’s future is grim and you believe it’s all because your neighbor bought and installed that trampoline where your son could get to it. You look for and locate a personal injury lawyer. Your first question is;
Your first source of proof comes from the American Association of Pediatrics. Their stance, taken 20 years ago was, in effect, a warning any reasonable human being would heed. The neighbors knew, or should have known that their Craig’s List find was a threat to anybody who used it.
Children and the Premises Liability Law
Your neighbors, on the other hand, are relying upon the premises liability law that states that victims may not claim damages from injuries sustained on property upon which they are trespassing. What they don’t know is that there are exceptions to this law that directly apply to small children who truly do not understand property boundaries, so they cannot be trespassers in the usual sense.
In order to prove your neighbor’s negligence was the cause your child’s injury you must demonstrate the following facts:
- An existing condition, object or installation on the owner’s property is or was hazardous or dangerous to children
- The condition constituted a danger and was interesting to a child or something that children are drawn to (“an attractive nuisance”)
- The child in question was incapable of understanding the danger posed by the hazard
- The problem existed in an area where children are often going to be in or near, meaning that the property owner should understand that a child might have access to his or her property.
- The owner or manager was aware or reasonably should known of the hazard or danger, but did not fix it or use other precautions, within reason. (Such as building a fence with a locked gate in which to keep the ‘attractive nuisance’ which is what this item and others, like a swimming pool, are called in law)
With the help of the many studies and published findings about the dangers of trampolines, you probably will have very little trouble slipping through the premises liability loophole. Was he really a trespasser? No. He was simply a curious kid sucked into tragedy by an irresistible toy. But how will you determine the worth of a little life so tragically disrupted?
How can a Georgia court establish a value for my son’s new, diminished life, compared to what would have been had he not been injured?
The process of finding a “price tag” for your son’s whole-ness is flawed, of course. There is no way, short of a trip in a time machine to stop the accident before it happened, to make this child’s life ordinary again. None of us can know what this young bundle of infinite potential might have been had he not been injured. Perhaps he would have been an Olympic athlete. Maybe he would have become a champion sprinter. Perhaps he would have become a policeman or a builder of fine houses. We won’t ever know, will we?
The best lawyers can do in cases such as this is look at what values have been established in the past then adjust the numbers to fit today’s costs. Fortunately, the enlightened jury, who has heard all the facts and weighed all the circumstances carefully, are usually very good at this difficult task. Together the jury comes to an understanding that little lives thus scrambled must be given access to all possible hope for the future. This can mean therapy of all kinds, including psychological counseling. This child needs help to know that he can overcome his disabilities – that while he won’t be a world-class sprinter or a traffic cop, he can still be a useful and contributing member of society.
His special needs will include a vehicle that can transport him and his wheel chair now, and later as he becomes a man. New wheel chairs will be necessary as he grows and changes. Special physical alterations in his current home will be necessary in order to make it possible for him and his wheel chair to navigate his house. His upstairs bedroom, where he’s lived since his crib-days, will have to be moved downstairs. Ramps must be built and bathroom and fixtures refitted to his particular needs. This child will have plenty of adjustments to cope with because of the neighbors’ lack of care.
As your son’s caretaker and next friend, you are responsible for finding an attorney who will plead his case in such a way as to provide for the future in the ways your son cannot. You are under a heavy burden to get this right. Begin by finding a personal injury specialist with plenty of experience.
Not all lawyers deal with this kind of case all the time. A personal injury lawyer, on the other hand spends his entire working day wringing compensation out of insurance companies who fight hard to avoid paying for the negligence of their clients. Some of the most challenging moments in personal injury law come not from proving the injury itself, but from the equivocation that seems born into insurance attorneys. We expect them to drag their collective heels and bolt at any small opportunity. In other words, you would be failing in your duty to protect your child if you do not choose his legal counsel carefully.
At The Millar Law Firm we understand the weight of the trust you place in us when you allow us to represent you. We carry these kinds of heavy burdens every day. When we represent you and your child, we know that his quality of life will depend upon us in a very big way. We take our work in the personal injury field very, very seriously.
Call our office today if your child has experienced an injury that is the result of somebody else’s carelessness or negligent behavior. We will evaluate your case free of charge so that you can have the ability to make an educated decision. The advice is good and the advice is free. It’s the least we can do to help you overcome your tragic circumstances.
Call The Millar Firm. You need a PI lawyer in your corner.