Last Update: 01/27/16
Every year, thousands of parents across the State of Florida pack their kids up and wave goodbye as the children go off to camp for the summer. There’s all sorts of children’s camps here in the Sunshine State: some are affiliated with churches, synagogues or schools, some are tied to particular activities (like wrestling camps or soccer camps).
Whatever the camp, when a parent sends their child away from their own protection and supervision, there is the risk and the worry that the child will be hurt somehow — even though there are things that a parent can do to minimize this risk.
Summer Camp Safety Tips for Parents
1. Check out the Camp
Ask other parents (and their kids) about the camp. What’s its reputation? Are there any stories about past accidents where kids got hurt?
Contact organizations like the American Camp Association to verify the camp’s safety record.
Contact the camp and inquire into their staff – who will be overseeing your child? What’s their background? What’s their training (not just in caring for kids but also in things like CPR and basic first aid, etc.)
2. Read the Camp’s Paperwork Before You Give Your Okay
Many camps will have paperwork for parents to sign before the child will be allowed to attend the camp. This may be a good thing, if the camp is wanting important information to help in its care of the children; however, check for language where the camp is trying to limit its potential liability for anything that goes wrong. Permission slips are one thing; waivers of any future claim against the camp are another.
3. Consider Your Child’s Individual Needs
Each kid is different. Consider your child’s health issues (if any) as well as their age and their level of responsibility. Not every camp is a good fit for every child.
4. Send Stuff With Your Kid – From Health Info to Emergency Numbers
As you pack clothes and treats, don’t forget to include things for the camp supervisors that will be helpful if your child is hurt at camp — things like health information (blood type, allergies) as well as phone numbers for your child’s doctor along with where you and another relative can be reached 24/7.
5. What Happens If Your Child is Hurt at Camp in a Camp Accident?
When a child is hurt at camp, the parents may be able to pursue a claim against the camp under Florida law. Others may also be liable along with the camp itself, if other entities like schools or religious institutions are involved. For example, if your child is hurt at a swimming camp this summer as part of a school sponsored trip then the school district may share legal responsibility with the camp for the injuries sustained.
Finding out the facts surrounding the accident as soon as possible is important. Parents should learn as much as they can as fast as they can, including the names and addresses of anyone who witnessed the accident.
Accidents at camp can include all sorts of activities including:
- Riding ATVs
- Riding Horses
- Playing sports (soccer, football, baseball, etc.)
Kids can get hurt through:
- Slip and fall accidents
- Trip and fall incidents
- Equipment misuse (helmets, paddles, bikes, ATVs, etc.)
- Equipment malfunction
- Health issues (allergies, stings, heat stroke, bites, etc.)
Filing a Claim for Injuries to Child Hurt at Camp
In Florida, there are several legal bases for a claim seeking damages for a child hurt at camp. There can be negligence claims, premises liability claims, products liability claims, even intentional torts like assault can arise from a camp injury.
For parents, another facet in any lawsuit based upon injury to a child at camp is the child’s actions. In serious injury cases, particularly, the defendants may not only argue a limited liability based upon the parent’s paperwork as well as challenge their duty to the child was breached, they may go so far as to point the finger at the child.
As explained in the Florida case of Isenberg v. Ortona Park Recreational Center, Inc., 160 So.2d 132, 134 (Fla. 1st DCA 1964), where a 16 year old girl was hurt when she ran through a glass door while at camp, the court stated:
In determining whether a particular individual has been guilty of contributory negligence at a particular time, it is necessary to consider (1) the characteristics of that individual — age, intelligence, experience, knowledge, physical condition, etc. — which would affect his ability to detect dangerous conditions or appreciate the degree of hazards involved in conditions actually observed; (2) the physical facts — the extent to which the particular hazard is noticeable and the degree of alertness to avoid such a hazard reasonably called for by surrounding circumstances; and (3) the action taking place — the incidents of movement, sound and physical activities of the individual charged with contributory negligence and other persons and objects, animate and inanimate.
What Should You Do?
A good piece of advice if your child has been harmed at camp, is to at least speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer before you file a claim to learn about some of the issues that can arise with these claims, including the type of evidence needed to prove a claim and the type and amount of damages you can recover. Most personal injury lawyers, like Alan Sackrin, will offer a free initial consultation (over the phone or in person) to answer your questions.
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Do you have questions or comments? Then please feel free to send Alan an email or call him now at (954) 458-8655.