Visitor Question

Child Left in a Van for 3 Hours in August…

Submitted By: James (USA)

Our 5 year old boy was left in a daycare van for 3 hours in August 2012. He is okay physically but we are not doing well after facing our worst fear. My wife went to pick him up and noticed he was missing. The daycare had no idea where he was. When he was taken out of the van he was soaked with sweat.

We called the police and pressed charges against the two staff members that checked him as OFF the van roster. What level of pain and suffering would we use for a case like this? Do we file a personal injury lawsuit in addition to the criminal charges? Any information you can give us about this criminal/civil case would be much appreciated. Thanks.

Disclaimer: Our response is not formal legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Do not rely upon the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site, when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Always get a personalized case review from a local attorney.


Dear James,

Before you consider a personal injury lawsuit you must be able to prove your son was injured. Fortunately he was alright physically. The only remaining injury would appear to be his emotional distress.

To transfer his emotional distress into viable damages required for a lawsuit you’ll need a psychologist, psychiatrist, or other mental health expert to examine your son. If one or more believe your son suffered an emotional trauma of some type and they are willing to document those findings, you will have the basis for a lawsuit.

Aditionally, if suit is filed and you can prove the day care employees acted with gross disregard or recklessness your son may have the basis for punitive damages as well.

Before you consider your lawsuit it would be a good idea to wait until the criminal case is concluded. You’ll have plenty of time to file your lawsuit. Depending upon the state you live in you may have a year or more to file your suit before the statute of limitations expires. Having proof of a conviction for child endangerment will be very helpful in any civil lawsuit.

Unfortunately it is quite rare for the courts to permit parents to recover for the emotional distress they may have vicariously suffered as a result of a child’s injuries.

To recover for those types of damages the trauma usually has to be of great magnitude and has to have occurred in either one or both of the parents’ presence.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from a licensed attorney. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here , or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Published: September 5, 2012

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