Caregiver Liability for a Child's Injury

A claim of negligent supervision can be made when a child is injured due to the carelessness or inattention of a caregiver.

If your child was injured while under another person’s supervision, you may be able to bring a claim for negligent supervision. Negligent supervision of a child occurs when someone accepts responsibility to care for your child but, because of the caregiver's inattention or carelessness, your child ends up getting hurt.

What You Must Prove in a Negligent Supervision Case

To make your case for negligent supervision, you will need to prove a number of things that come with the territory in most negligence claims.

First, you will have to prove that the person or organization that you are suing accepted the responsibility of supervising your child.

Next, you must establish that the caregiver failed to properly monitor your child. In proving this element of your claim, you may want to describe the proper level of supervision and how the caregiver fell short of providing it. Some factors indicating a higher need for supervision are discussed below.

Additionally, you must prove that your child’s injury was caused by the supervisor’s failure to properly monitor your child.

Finally, you will need to show that the injury to your child was foreseeable. In other words, you must establish that a reasonable person could have seen it coming.

Who Can Be Held Accountable?

Anyone who agrees to care for your child in your absence can be held responsible for negligent supervision. Examples of responsible parties include:

  • teachers
  • day care providers
  • babysitters
  • churches
  • schools
  • camp counselors
  • foster parents
  • nannies, and
  • other parents

What Level of Supervision Is Needed?

Children need varying levels of supervision. The appropriate level of supervision depends on a variety of factors. Here are a few situations and factors to consider.

  • Younger children require more supervision than older children.
  • Children at a daycare near a pool or a busy road will need stricter monitoring than children in a less risky environment.
  • A child with a physical or mental disability needs a heightened level of supervision.
  • Children with behavioral problems will require closer monitoring.
  • Watching a larger number of children requires a more intense level of supervision.

Child-to-Caregiver Ratio. One of the most common causes of negligent supervision is an irresponsibly high child-to-caregiver ratio. Organizations promising to monitor a large group of children have a duty not to take on more children than they can carefully supervise. If an organization accepts more children than they can responsibly care for and a child is hurt due to lack of supervision, that organization can face liability.

Was the Injury Foreseeable?

You will need to show that your child’s injury was a natural consequence of the caregiver’s failure to supervise the situation.

It is not enough that a person monitoring your child was negligent if your child’s injury was unrelated to the level of supervision. For example, if a child is struck by lightning on a mild day, even a careless babysitter will not be liable because the lightning strike is unrelated to the babysitter’s negligence.

In contrast, if a daycare provider allows a child to swim in a pool during a storm and lightning strikes the water, that daycare provider will be liable for the child’s injuries. Electrocution is a foreseeable consequence of swimming in a pool during an electric storm. The daycare provider’s careless decision to allow the child to swim at such a dangerous time was a direct cause of the child’s injury.

Also, courts consider kidnappings to be foreseeable if the caregiver fails to supervise the child and the child is taken. Put simply: It is foreseeable that a young child left alone outside could be kidnapped.

Other examples of a caregiver being negligent and the injury being foreseeable are:

  • a young child shoots himself with an unsecured loaded gun
  • a baby locked in a car dies when it overheats
  • a blind child falls into a pool and drowns
  • children play with matches and start a fire
  • a child drinks antifreeze stored in a kitchen, and
  • a child with violent tendencies is allowed to play outside alone with a younger child and the smaller child is beaten

These injuries are foreseeable because they can be prevented if the caregiver acts with reasonable care and properly monitors the children. If your child was injured due to a caregiver's lack of supervision, you may want to consult a lawyer about the specific facts of your case and the law in your state.

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