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Summer Camp Injuries and Illness: Who is Responsible?

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Summer is here, and kids are celebrating the end of the school year and packing up for camp. New friends, outdoor activities, and time spent away from home to encourage independence are among the many benefits of a summer at camp. Nationwide, there are 7,000 overnight camps and about 5,000 day camps in the U.S., attended by some 11 million campers, according to the American Camp Association (ACA).

As parents, you are trusting your children to the supervision of others when you send them off to camp. Hopefully, you’ve done your research and selected a camp with a great reputation and track record of many summers without incident. Nevertheless, accidents do happen at camp. Most are minor scrapes and cuts, but serious injuries and illnesses can occur. When they do, who is responsible?

The Camp’s Duty of Care to its Campers

In most cases, the camp has a duty to keep it’s campers reasonably safe, under the legal theory of premises liability. The camp’s grounds should be maintained free of hazards, and the activities should be age appropriate, not unduly dangerous, and well supervised. The camp owes a duty to its campers and their families to review its programs and facilities to minimize injury risks. When the owner, operator, or a staff member of the camp fails in its duty to create and maintain a safe environment, and a serious accident or injury occurs, a parent might successfully sue the camp for their child’s injuries.

Types of Injuries and Illnesses that Occur at Camp

  • Communicable diseases: Kids sleep in fairly close quarters and as with any time youngsters come together in groups, germs get passed from one to another. Most common are respiratory infections and gastro-enteritis, “stomach flu.” Most of these are minor and pass within a few days. In the rare instance of a serious outbreak of a life-threatening disease, such as measles or meningitis, depending on the circumstances, the camp’s vaccination requirements, and how the first case was handled, it might be possible to prove negligence and hold the camp liable for the cost of medical care, pain and suffering, and any long-term damage to the child’s health.
  • Slip, trip, and fall accidents: If a child slips or trips and falls because of some hazardous condition at the camp, the owners may be held liable for any injuries that occur, if it can be shown that they were negligent in maintaining the premises in a reasonably safe condition, and that they caused or allowed a hazardous condition to exist, under the legal theory of premises liability.
  • Injuries resulting from the failure to use appropriate protective equipment: Team sports, horseback riding, and cycling are among the camp activities that require protective gear. If the camp either does not provide the gear or does not enforce its use, they may be held liable for your child’s injuries.
  • Injuries resulting from lack of supervision: There’s no telling what kind of trouble kids can get into when left unsupervised. When you send your child to camp, you rely on the staff to provide appropriate supervision. It is the camp’s responsibility to provide it. The camp can be held liable for serious injuries or deaths (drowning, for example) brought about by lack of supervision of the campers.
  • Inherently dangerous camp activities: Horseback riding, football, capture the flag, wilderness hiking, and other activities common at camp come with inherent dangers for kids who participate. You will usually be required to sign a release of liability form. If the camp has provided adequate training, supervision, and protective gear, they will probably not be held liable for a child’s injury in an activity with inherent danger. However, if they were lax in any of the above, you might have a case.
  • Sexual or physical abuse of children due to failure of camp to screen staff: The camp is responsible for ensuring that the people they hire to supervise and guide the children are of good character. They should perform thorough background checks to determine if there any red flags that might indicate an applicant is not fit to be around children. Needless to say, a conviction for a violent crime, domestic abuse, or a sex offense should preclude hiring someone. If any sort of child physical or sexual abuse occurs at the hands of a staff member, the camp may be held liable for wrongful hiring and failure to properly investigate those who will care for the kids.

If Your Child’s Injury is More than a Minor One

Children are prone to injuries, and some types of injuries will inevitably occur at camp. The good news is that most camps have on-site healthcare providers and adhere to national camp standards requiring the presence of a licensed healthcare provider present around the clock to deal with most common illnesses and injuries as they occur.

Depending on the specific circumstances, the camp may or may not be held liable for serious injuries, depending on the specific situation in which the harm occurred. If your child suffered a serious injury or illness at a day or sleep-away camp that could have been prevented, talk to an experienced personal injury attorney to learn what legal options might be available.

Posted by admin at 8:49 pm

What Is the Texas Dram Shop Law?

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

When one person injures another, the injured party may seek compensation for his or her injuries and associated expenses by filing a personal injury lawsuit against the person who injured him or her. In some situations, a third-party may share some of the blame. This third-party may not have directly contributed to the injury-causing incident, but his or her involvement enabled the defendant (the person being sued) to commit the action.

One of the most prevalent examples of this situation would be a bar or other establishment that serves alcohol to an obviously intoxicated patron. In Texas, the laws meant to prevent such incidents are known as dram shop laws.

How Do Dram Shop Claims Work?

Any establishment or “social host” that provides alcohol to guests may be held responsible for any injuries that those guests cause to others after they leave the premises. Additionally, liquor stores and other alcohol vendors can be held responsible for damages in some cases, including any instance of alcohol being sold or given to anyone under the age of 18 or any instance of providing alcohol to an obviously intoxicated person.

A “social host” describes any individual who knowingly supplies alcohol to individuals under the age of 18. This does not apply to parents – a parent cannot be held accountable as a social host if his or her child injures another person due to intoxication. Under Texas laws, social hosts include any adult who is not a parent, legal guardian, or spouse of the minor under 18. Social host laws also apply to individuals who knowingly serve alcohol to minors under 18 or permit alcohol consumption by minors under 18 on his or her property.

Damages

As with any other personal injury case, a personal injury lawsuit involving dram shop laws can provide the injured party with various forms of compensation, including:

  • Medical expenses. Compensation for medical costs can include emergency response services and care, hospital bills, the costs of any necessary subsequent treatments (such as physical therapy or reconstructive surgeries), prescription costs, and any other medical expenses resulting from the incident.
  • Pain and suffering. The plaintiff’s attorney will consult with medical professionals who will act as expert witnesses. Expert witnesses have no personal involvement in a case, but instead, provide their expertise to the court to help a jury determine how an injury affected the plaintiff. Although it sounds difficult to quantify physical pain and emotional trauma with a dollar figure, expert witness testimony allows a court to determine a reasonable amount of compensation.
  • Lost income. If an injury prevents the plaintiff from returning to work for an extended period, he or she can claim lost wages as compensation. If an incident results in a permanent disability that prevents the plaintiff from resuming his or her job permanently, he or she can sue for the income that he or she would have reasonably expected to earn in the future.
  • Property damage. This includes damage to a vehicle or destroyed personal belongings.

Cases involving dram shop laws often involve extensive investigation, such as interviewing patrons and staff of the establishment who saw the intoxicated individual, security footage from the establishment, and consultations with expert witnesses. An attorney is crucial for successfully navigating any personal injury case and any case involving Texas dram shop laws – which will likely be complex.

The individual directly responsible for the incident and the establishment that served alcohol to the individual can both be held accountable for the incident. For example, if you were struck by a drunk driver and injured, you can sue the driver for compensation for the damages listed above. Additionally, if that driver just left a bar that continued to serve him or her alcohol after he or she was visibly drunk, the bar can also be held accountable for contributing to the incident.

Posted by admin at 5:27 pm

My Child Is Being Bullied at School. Are There Legal Repercussions?

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Bullying is a harmful act that can cause long-term emotional and physical effects on our children. The law defines bullying as any aggressive, purposeful behavior that’s intended to frighten, threaten, or harm another child. It’s important to understand the distinction between children “picking on” one another and an actual act of bullying. Specifically, bullying can occur in situations such as:

  • One student waiting in an area for the express purpose of intimidating another
  • Taking money or other personal belongings through force or aggression
  • Using intimidation to force a fellow student to complete homework or give answers
  • Initiating a physical altercation with another student

Some parents still dismiss bullying, saying it’s a childish lark and normal phase of development. But modern bullying, especially online, has created an atmosphere where students have even turned to suicide and other violent extremes. States and local municipalities have begun to enforce anti-bullying measures to protect other children from harm.

Bullying in Schools: Who’s Liable?

Liability in bullying cases can be hard to assign. Several parties may be held responsible for acts of bullying, from the child him or herself to the parents or the school system. School officials, for instance, are required to create a safe environment for their students at all times. When bullying happens on school property, an attorney may first look at the district’s responsibility. If a school’s teachers or administrators knew about a bullying situation but did nothing to prevent it, they may be charged for any general or special damages.

If the school didn’t know about a bullying situation or the incident didn’t take place on school grounds, liability falls on the child or the child’s parents. A student’s parents may be liable, for example, if they were aware of the misconduct, condoned it, or encouraged the behavior in any way.

A bullied child generally needs to have tangible evidence of suffering or injury to collect on a personal injury claim. He or she must show evidence of physical injury or loss of valuable property. Intangible losses are harder to prove in court, such as suffering purely emotional injuries and distress. Thus, this kind of hardship is less likely to result in damages.

What Are the Legal Repercussions for Bullying?

In light of recent headlines detailing the consequences of bullying, most states have instituted some kind of anti-bullying law. Others are currently considering other forms of legislation.

Texas mandates that school districts make and enforce their own anti-bullying policies. Those who are in violation of school policy may be expelled, be transferred, or face additional disciplinary action. In cases where bullying becomes criminal (theft, defacing public property, assault, etc.), the bully could face time in a juvenile facility.

A Note About Cyber-Bullying

Today’s information age means students face new bullying threats online. Cyberbullying refers to acts that intimidate, harass, or humiliate on the internet. To protect your kids from this phenomenon, consider implementing the following measures:

Monitor social media usage. Without caution, everything your children post will be available to everyone else online. Some users are just looking to harass others, and running into this kind of interaction can be devastating for kids who won’t understand why someone is being mean.

Restrict chat/forum activity. Similar to social media sites, posting on public forums or open chats may be exciting for young kids who feel like they’re interacting with the entire world. Of course, this also makes them a target for bullies who think it’s funny to be mean regardless of the conversation.

Legal Action

For legal action to be taken, these threats must be intense or persistent enough to make the victim feel unsafe. Talk to a personal injury attorney for more info about your options.

Your child’s emotional and physical well-being are of upmost importance. If you feel this is being threatened due to a school’s or parent’s negligence, you may have grounds for a civil lawsuit. Contact our office for a free initial consultation.

Posted by admin at 10:47 pm

How Do You Prove that Another Driver’s Negligence Caused You to Do Something that Resulted in an Accident?

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Countless cases – whether they’re settled out of court or go before a jury – hinge on proving negligence. In some situations, even a driver who hit another vehicle may have done so only because of a third party’s neglect. For instance, a person driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol may indirectly cause an accident. That individual, however, may be found fully accountable for all subsequent damages.

As an example, you may be driving on a highway when a person using a cell phone cuts you off. You slam on the brakes, a car rear-ends you, and a pileup ensues. Who is responsible – you, the driver who hit you, or the person who cut you off? Obviously, things can get complicated in such incidents. Working with a qualified legal team to uncover any negligence that may have caused the collision is the first step in protecting your rights against this type of accident.

Proving Negligence in Texas

Negligence can affect any personal injury in Texas, not only those on our freeways. For instance, if you meet with a legal team to discuss a slip and fall, they will pore over any details you provide. Were the grounds well maintained? Was the business you were visiting open and well staffed? Were there any spills, and did the manager take a reasonable degree of action to fix the problem? Proving these details, potentially before a jury, takes countless hours of hard work and dedication. If you’re injured, do your best to keep track of the following details. This will help you prove neglect in Texas:

  • A detailed, consistent account of the accident. Documentation is critically important, but so is consistency. As soon as you get the chance, write down what happened so you can remember it in the future. Inconsistency may affect your credibility, especially if the defendant has his or her own evidence.
  • Pictures of the scene. Photographs will absolutely help your case. In the case of a slip and fall, a spill or crack in the sidewalk can be incriminating. This can streamline the entire process, so if you’re able, take pictures of the scene or have someone do it for you.
  • Witness information. Eyewitness accounts are also critical. As your attorney and insurance company (as well as the defendant’s) work to understand what happened, external perspectives may prove invaluable.
  • The physician’s diagnosis. Whether or not you’re injured, consider checking in with a doctor if you suspect neglect. This is even more important if you have any kind of pain or discomfort. These issues may develop over time, and you might need to rely on a professional’s diagnosis to link your pain and suffering to the incident.
  • All related expenses and damages. Keep your receipts, all medical bills, and any other documents (e.g., bank statements) connecting costs to the accident.

Don’t Overlook the Importance of Working with an Experienced Dallas Attorney

Your Texas attorney will explore the defendant’s legal obligations to provide a safe environment for the plaintiff, whether that duty was breached or not, and what caused the incident – which can be a direct or indirect action or no action at all. Finally, he or she will assess the damage, accounting for all long-term issues that may play into your settlement. This could include physical therapy costs, job rehabilitation programs, loss of consortium, and more.

There are hundreds of details that can be the difference between a fair amount that pays for all damages over the course of your life and an insulting settlement lets the responsible party off the hook. Don’t fall for the latter. Speak with an attorney at Aaron Herbert for more information, and trust your claim to us. We’ll explore every possible factor that may have contributed to your injury, and we won’t rest until a fair settlement is awarded.

Posted by admin at 10:55 pm

Does a “Swim at Your Own Risk” Sign Actually Do Anything?

Thursday, May 26, 2016

When it’s summertime in Texas, we tend to gravitate toward pools. On particularly hot days, kids swarm to public options, and they may even be tempted to swim in the neighbors’ pools – whether or not they’re at home. If a child is injured in a public or private pool, you may be wondering about potential liability or legal actions that you may take against the city or owner.

Responsibility & LIability

Before you get that far, you may be wondering: Is a “Swim at Your Own Risk” sign enough to eliminate all responsibility for accidents that occur on the property? The answer is no. Texas laws in this area are multifaceted, and there is plenty to consider before taking your case to an attorney. Here are a few factors that may affect your claim:

  • Our premises liability laws. In general, a public pool or one owned by a hotel or similar business (e.g., a gym) can be held accountable for any injuries that occur; a posted warning sign may not matter. There are, of course, some exceptions. For example, the injured party can’t be a trespasser, and he or she must have used the pool as intended – for example, drinking and swimming after hours will likely result in partial blame being placed on the injured party. Regardless, the owner must make conditions as safe as possible and reasonably enforce any rules posted for the pool.
  • Assumed risk. A qualified Texas attorney will thoroughly explain this factor to you before agreeing to take your case. The presence of a “Swim at Your Own Risk” sign does amplify this issue, as does the presence of a lifeguard. For instance, when a pool is clearly marked as “No Lifeguard on Duty,” swimmers assume a certain degree of risk when they jump into the pool. Though “Swim at Your Own Risk” is less specific, the same principle applies.
    However, the age and cognitive abilities of the injured party may affect this. For example, a child with a mental disability wouldn’t be expected to understand the risk these signs indicate. When this is the case, the claim will likely be settled by continuing to examine factors that may have contributed to the accident – such as neglect.
  • Negligence. This is another element that will likely affect the outcome of your claim. The pool’s owner is expected to keep the area safe and well maintained. This includes keeping all equipment in working order and ensuring the area is reasonably clear of obstacles. If a faulty or uncovered drain contributes to an accident, for example, it isn’t a known risk that the plaintiff assumed, regardless of any signage.
    The workers employed at the pool may also fall under scrutiny; if a lifeguard is on duty and he or she causes or fails to prevent damages, the enterprise may be liable for subsequent expenses. These individuals are to be fully licensed and qualified and it’s an area your attorney should explore.

Work Out the Specifics of Your Case with an Experienced Texas Attorney

Even though we’ve outlined some details here, real-life cases are far more nuanced and can only be explained through a consultation with an attorney. Product liability may be involved, which opens the claim up to an entirely new area of legal practice. You also need a lawyer committed to uncovering the minutiae of your case – from whether warning signs were posted clearly to confirming the owner’s security measures and demonstrating his or her ability to keep the pool safe.

Contact

For a personal, devoted look at your claim, get in touch with the Texas specialists at the Law Firm of Aaron Herbert.

Posted by admin at 9:56 pm