Can I file a lawsuit against my child’s caregiver even if I was the one who arranged for the caregiver? Even if I was the one who (mistakenly) decided to trust my child to this caregiver in the first place?
The answer is ‘yes.’
Case Study #1
Your 17-year-old babysitter fails to buckle your child in the car while driving to school in nearby North Las Vegas. A car accident occurs, which results in injuries to your child and medical bills. You never expressly told your babysitter to use seatbelts; you just assumed that the babysitter would use seatbelts for any child in the car. Is it worth calling a Vegas traffic accident attorney? You wonder if the babysitter’s insurance could help cover your medical bills.
Case Study #2
Your child’s nanny takes a trip to Red Rock Canyon with your child and a group of friends. Your child’s nanny fails to notice your child climbing a high rock. Your child falls from the rock and breaks a leg, resulting in a $30,000 medical bill. Other children were climbing on the same rocks where your child fell, but you feel certain that you wouldn’t have allowed the climbing if you’d been there yourself. Would an accident attorney believe that you have grounds to sue the babysitter?
Case Study #3
You leave your child for just a few minutes with an elderly neighbor while you run to a nearby grocery store. Tragically, your child finds the neighbor’s gun closet, and a gun accident results. The neighbor wasn’t a paid caregiver so you wonder if you have any grounds to sue for damages. You want to make sure that no similar accident will occur in the future to someone else’s child. You are also interested in receiving monetary compensation to help with your medical bills and missed work.
Lawsuits involving non-parental child caregivers can be directed at:
- family members (adult siblings, grandparents, etc.)
- paid caregivers (nannies, au pairs, neighborhood minors who babysit as an odd job)
- non-paid caregivers (neighbor, the parents who organized another child’s birthday party which your child attended)
- organizational childcare providers (youth camps, after-school groups, daycare centers)
Common examples of negligent supervision occurring in personal injury lawsuits brought by the parent or caregiver of a child against another caregiver may include negligence such as:
- Not protecting a child from harm caused by an animal
- Not protecting a child from harm caused by another child or any other threat
- Negligent or delayed care of a child that needs medical attention
- Not securing safety threats such as guns, pools, high balconies without railings, chemicals, etc.
- Leaving a child in an unattended vehicle
- Not securing a child properly in a moving vehicle
Generally speaking, it is harder to sue a caregiver who is a minor (under the age of 18), but it is not impossible.
A judge will determine what a reasonable, prudent person would have been expected to do in the situation in which your child was injured. If a judge determines that a reasonable, prudent person would have prevented the injury, then you have reason to file a negligence case.
In Case Study #2, in which the child falls from a rock, there would be a weaker negligence case if your child were climbing in the presence of other caregivers who were allowing their children to climb the same rocks. If other caregivers were allowing their children to climb the rocks, a judge may reasonably assume that a reasonable, prudent person would have let their children climb in the area.
The more time it would take for a child to get themselves in trouble in a particular situation, the stronger the evidence that the caregiver was being negligent. If a young child suddenly slips during a routine walk down the street while near a caregiver, for example, there is less evidence of negligence than if a young child receives an injury after being unattended for a length of time.
Some safety hazards are a risk for children who are unattended for even a few seconds. Safety hazards like pools, knives, guns, weapons, dangerous animals, or dangerous chemicals can injure a child very quickly. Since these safety hazards can cause serious injury within seconds or minutes, the caregiver has the responsibility to secure these dangerous objects in a way that a child will not have unattended access. The caregiver is responsible for securing safety hazards, whether or not the caregiver is paid or unpaid, related or non-related, ongoing or temporary. For example, in Case History #3, the neighbor could be held liable for the child’s gun accident.
Unique considerations for negligence lawsuits involving minors
Personal injury lawsuits that involve a minor must be brought by the child’s parent or legal guardian. The child does not have the legal standing to bring a lawsuit on their own behalf.
Most negligence lawsuits are settled out of court. Settlements that do not involve a minor may be decided without specific involvement by a judge. When the lawsuit involves a minor, however, the settlement must be reviewed and approved by a judge. This regulation was designed for the protection of minors.
Any compensation received by a minor must be placed in a trust for the benefit of the child. This regulation is protective of minors, securing the money that is earmarked for them [the minors] from adults who may be tempted to use the money for other purposes. The child gains access to the trust fund at age 18.
Similar to other negligence lawsuits, four criteria must be met for a lawsuit against a child’s caregiver to proceed:
- Was the caregiver responsible for the child at the time of the accident?
- Did the caregiver fail to provide the standard of care which a reasonable and prudent person would be expected to provide?
- Did the caregiver’s negligence result in real injury?
- Did the injury lead to a monetary or emotional loss?
If you have evidence that the answer is ‘yes’ for each of these four questions, then you likely have grounds for a personal injury lawsuit against your child’s caregiver.