Visitor Question

Is daycare liable for second degree burns on son’s hand?

Submitted By: Anonymous (Greenville, North Carolina)

My 8 month old son was being held by the employee at daycare while she was preparing his bottle.

She held him within reach of one of the bottle warmers that was hot. My son grabbed it, resulting in second degree burns to two of his fingers and minor burns to his other fingers.

This has so far resulted in me having to leave work to assist with child care, an emergency room visit, and a doctor’s office follow up the next day. The doctors have said he should make a full recovery barring an infection or other complication.

I started taking pictures of his burns about 18 hours after it happened. I’m not sure if I should request reimbursement for expenses or if I should take more action. Is the daycare center liable for the costs from my son’s burns?

Thank you for any information you can provide.

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.

Answer

Dear Anonymous,

We are sorry to hear about your son’s burns. The daycare may be liable for these injuries on a negligence claim.

Proving Negligence Against a Daycare Facility

You may be able to say that the daycare facility was liable for your son’s injuries if you can show that it was negligent. You have to make this showing no matter if you file a lawsuit or submit a claim with the facility’s insurance company.

To successfully prove the daycare center was negligent, you must show: 

  1. The daycare center had a duty of care to protect your child from harm
  2. The daycare center breached its duty
  3. The breach was the direct and proximate cause of your child’s injuries
  4. The injuries were foreseeable by the daycare staff or management
  5. Your child was, in fact, injured

Here, there is no question that the daycare center had a duty to protect your child. The injury took place during working hours when you entrusted the facility to care for your child.

A question, though, is whether the daycare center breached this duty. The facts of a case show whether or not a person or business violated a duty.

The facts of this case show that the daycare facility may have breached its duty of care. It’s true that your son grabbed the warmer on his own – which may negate a breach. However, the employee was holding your child within an arm’s reach of the warmer.

It’s reasonable to say that an employee should foresee that holding an eight-month-old child within arm’s reach of a heat source may cause harm. For this reason, there is a strong possibility that you can show negligence.

There is no question that, if the daycare did breach its duty, this breach caused your child’s injuries. Further, the burns are definitely injuries deserving compensation.

Issue of a Release Form

A question in your case involves a release form. Did the daycare center require you to sign one?

Most daycare centers require a parent to sign a release or waiver of liability before taking care of the parent’s child. In theory, the effect of the release is that, once it’s signed, the parent says the daycare center is released from liability if the child is injured while the facility is in session.

Rest assured that even if you did sign a release, it’s most likely unenforceable.

There have been plenty of daycare lawsuits brought by parents who signed agreements with a waiver of liability. In almost every case, the courts have decided that it’s against public policy to relieve daycare providers of liability if a child is hurt while in their care.

Damages

A parent that shows a daycare center negligently caused their child’s injury can usually recover any expenses for:

Given this, you can probably receive compensation for:

  • Your child’s medical care
  • His emergency room visit
  • Your missed days from work

Statute of Limitations

Every state has a statute of limitations for personal injury claims.

A statute of limitations sets forth a period for which a claimant must file a lawsuit. If a suit is not filed within the time, the claimant loses the opportunity to bring one.

According to North Carolina law (NC Gen. Stat. 1-52), the statute of limitations for personal injury cases is three years. This means, if you decide to sue the daycare center, you must file your lawsuit within three years from the date of your son’s injuries.

If you go this route, you might want to discuss matters with a local attorney. Injury claims for children can get complicated.

A personal injury attorney will inform you of all the options at your disposal. For example, the attorney can help you decide if you should bring a claim for your losses, or on your child’s behalf. The rules and timelines are different for minor (meaning underage) injury claims.

If you do visit with an attorney, it’s a great idea to bring the photos you have of your child’s burns,  your contract with the daycare center,  copies of your child’s medical bills, and proof of your lost time from work.

Gathering strong evidence is a great way to increase the chance of receiving compensation.

Learn more here: Daycare Liability for Injuries

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 888-972-0892.

We wish you the best with your claim,

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