- Overview of Daycare Negligence
- FAQ about Daycare Negligence
- Signs of Daycare Negligence
- How to Prove a Negligence Claim
What is negligence? Negligence is an area of tort law that creates liability for people that fail to take reasonable care in avoiding injury or loss to another person. Generally, ordinary negligence occurs when someone does not act as a reasonable person would in certain circumstances.
So, what is daycare negligence? Daycare negligence is basic negligence in the context of child care providers. Proving daycare negligence is the same as proving ordinary negligence. A plaintiff must prove four elements: (1) duty; (2) breach of duty; (3) causation; and (4) damages to the plaintiff. The duty child care providers have is to provide reasonable care in protecting your child while under their watch at the daycare. If such duty is breached and it causes harm to your child, then there is likely a case for daycare negligence.
In a case for ordinary negligence, the plaintiff usually only receives compensatory damages. Compensatory damages are awarded to compensate a plaintiff for their losses. For example, in a personal injury case, there may be compensation for physical pain, suffering, physical impairment, mental anguish, loss wages, and medical expenses. Punitive damages are typically not available for ordinary negligence.
On the other hand, if the daycare negligence rises to the level of gross negligence, the plaintiff can receive compensatory damages and punitive damages. Punitive damages are awarded to punish the defendant for his or her gross negligence.
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FAQ about Daycare Negligence
What is daycare negligence?
Daycare negligence is when a child care provider breaches their duty to treat the children in their facility with reasonable care, and such breach causes some type of damage (i.e. injury or harm) to the child(ren). In other words, it is simply negligence in the context of child care.
What Florida laws are in place to protect my children from daycare negligence?
Florida statutes, sections 402.26 through 402.319, set guidelines for children’s health, safety, and well-being. Here are some of the guidelines set forth in Sections 402.26 through 402.319:
- Health and sanitation regulations for safe drinking water and food, inspections, proper utilities, cleanliness and vermin-free environments.
- Supervision standards such as proper screening and training of staff as well as criteria for staff-to-child ratio and narcotic-free employees to provide adequate supervision.
- Transportation standards such as seatbelts in vehicles and limited children per vehicle.
- Outdoor play criteria such as proper fencing and ground cover to reduce injuries.
Additionally, under Florida Administrative Code, Chapter 65C-22, licensed day care centers are also required to contact a parent immediately if a child has been seriously injured.
What are examples of daycare negligence?
Daycare negligence can range from very minor incidents or extremely disturbing incidents. Here are just some examples of daycare negligence:
- Failure to properly supervise a child: losing your child or injuring your child.
- Failure to attend to a child’s dietary needs: giving your child food he or she is allergic to or not feeding your child at all.
- Failure to provide safe premises: having inappropriate or dangerous toys around or toxic substances, such as cleaning supplies.
- Failure to screen employees: not screening or conducting background checks on employees and subsequently having a dangerous predator working at the daycare.
How much can you sue for daycare negligence?
This depends on the specifics of your case. In a claim for daycare negligence that only amounts to ordinary negligence, a plaintiff may be awarded compensatory damages. The potential amount of money that you are awarded for compensatory damages depends on your injury. That is, you are “compensated” for your losses, so the amount of money you get should directly correlate to the amount that you lost.
On the other hand, if the daycare negligence claim arises to the level of gross negligence, punitive damages may be available. Punitive damages are different because it is money paid to the plaintiff by the defendant in order to “punish” the defendant. Punitive damages are not to reward the plaintiff, but to deter the defendant from repeating his or her reckless conduct. However, there are limitations to punitive damages. In Florida, there is a cap on the amount of punitive damages available in a personal injury lawsuit. Punitive damages may not exceed the greater of:
- Three times the amount of compensatory damages awarded or
- The sum of $500,000. (See the full text of the law here).
Signs of Daycare Negligence
Daycare negligence tends to get unnoticed until things get worse. State and federal laws are imposed that set the standards which must be adhered to by all of these facilities. These policies include removing identified dangers, proper supervision and having adequate caregiver tools in case of emergency. If a daycare provider fails to follow these standards, they will be held legally liable when injuries or accidents happen.
Here are some examples of certain actions and behaviors in the daycare facility that can be considered negligent:
- Failing to properly oversee the children. If a child gets lost or becomes prone to harm, or gets harmed due to lack of adequate supervision, this is a negligent act.
- Failing to address the special dietary requirements of the child. When you let the daycare provider know that your child has certain dietary restrictions and food allergies, they should be able to keep the child away from any food that can potentially cause harm.
- Failing to provide safe facilities for the child. This kind of negligence may be about not being able to provide safe and age-appropriate toys or it could be leaving the child in a defective crib or playpen or leaving medicines and cleaning supplies that may be within a child’s reach.
- Failing to scrutinize employees or do background check. The child will be under the care of someone who is not skillfully equipped to supervise children, thus the possibility of negligence.
- Failing to hire enough adult supervisors to care for the children resulting in neglect.
Other less obvious signs that may indicate daycare neglect include:
- Clutter in the daycare center;
- Cleaning supplies and office supplies within reach of children;
- Your child comes home with scratches, bruises, and other physical ailments;
- Your child comes home and acts withdrawn;
- Your child comes home and is hungry or thirsty.
How to Prove a Negligence Claim
In any tort claim, there are elements that must be proven to the court to establish the defendant’s liability (i.e. tort liability). Negligence falls under the umbrella of tort law. Thus, in order to prove that a defendant was negligent, you must prove all four elements of negligence:
- breach of duty
You must prove all four and not just one or two of the elements.
The first element that must be proven is whether the defendant owed a “duty of care” to the plaintiff. The duty of care is a standard in tort law to act as a reasonable person. This duty of care can be owed by a person or a business. For example, landlords who owe a duty of care to those who come on the property, and business owners who owe a duty of care to those who enter the business, including employees and customers.
Breach of Duty:
The second element that must be proven is that the duty of care was breached by the defendant acting (or failing to act) in a certain way. For instance, if a landlord breaches the duty of care by failing to install handrails on a staircase, then the second element has been met.
The third element, causation, is that the plaintiff must prove that the defendant’s actions (or inaction) caused the plaintiff’s injury. In other words, the defendant must have caused the harm to occur.
Causation splits into two types:
- actual cause
- proximate cause
A plaintiff must establish both types of causation in order to prove the element of causation.
- Actual cause is exactly what it sounds like: did the defendant actually cause the harm? Actual cause is sometimes referred to as cause-in-fact.
- On the other hand, proximate cause is an extremely complex concept. Put simply, proximate cause asks whether the defendant’s actions (or inactions) caused a foreseeable consequence. Proximate cause is sometimes referred to as legal cause.
The final element of proof of negligence is damages. For this element, the plaintiff must show that he or she was injured or suffered damage as a result of the defendant’s actions (or inactions). Damages can be proven by personal injury, property damage, and in some cases, punitive damages.
Daycare negligence can be incredibly distressing and upsetting. That is why it is best to hire an attorney to seek out the justice your family deserves. The law of negligence is very complex and can be difficult to understand. Each case has a unique set of facts that make it difficult to determine whether or not you have a solid claim for daycare negligence. Let us help you make that determination easier.
Think you may have a case? Call (954) 951-9583 now!