It is a simple fact of life that children fall. They slip, they trip, they tumble, and they hit the ground. Most of the time they get back up and go back to playing or whatever they were doing without another thought. Sometimes they may need a cuddle from a parent or caregiver, and to have ice applied to a bump or bruise after being checked over for injuries. However, this is not always the case. There are times when a child’s fall may result in serious injuries that require intense – and sometimes ongoing – medical treatment and care.
According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “falls are the leading cause of non-fatal injuries for all children ages 0 to 19.” Per the CDC, U.S. emergency rooms treat nearly 2.8 million children for fall-related injuries each year. Broken down, that’s approximately 8,000 children per day.
They are the fortunate ones. Reports show that approximately 100 children die due to falls each year.
Accidents happen, but any time a child dies from a fall or is seriously injured, the cause of the incident must be investigated. If a child suffered fatal or life-threatening injuries from a fall that occurred while they were in the care of another person – whether it was a family member, babysitter, school staff, or a coach – that person’s negligence may have directly or indirectly caused the accident. Likewise, if a child was injured in a fall on someone else’s property or even public property, it is important to determine who is responsible and hold them accountable.
What are the most common injuries a child can sustain in a fall?
Some falls result in minor injuries, but not always. The millions of children treated for falls each year in the United States tend to suffer from:
- Broken bones
- Spinal cord injuries
- Sprains and other soft tissue damage
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
While some of these injuries may seem minor, any of them may prove fatal depending on the severity of the injury, the type of medical care provided, and the timeliness of that care. For example, a child who cuts their head in a fall may require stiches to close the wound and stop the blood loss. That child should also be checked for a concussion or other head injury.
Parents and caregivers are not always equipped to accurately assess a child’s injuries and need for medical attention. For instance, a baby or toddler who has fallen and hit their head may appear sleepy. Since babies and toddlers typically nap during the day, parents or caregivers may miss this symptom of a possible concussion. This, combined with children’s – particularly young children and babies’ – inability to speak up for themselves and explain what hurts and where, may lead to treatment delays that can be fatal.
Timing is especially important when any type of head or spinal cord injury is involved, and these injuries may not be readily apparent in the moments after the fall. A bleed on the brain my go undetected without proper medical attention and could kill the child in a matter of hours.
Any child who has fallen and possibly suffered a head or spinal cord injury should only be moved by trained medical professionals and should be examined and treated as soon as possible. This can be challenging when young children are involved, as they are often unable to explain where they are hurt or if they were unable to move certain body parts.
Where are children most at risk of being injured or dying in a fall?
Falls can happen anywhere. This as true for children as it is for adults. However, there are some places where a child is more likely to suffer a serious injury due to a fall. For instance, infants and toddlers tend to fall from furniture, baby walkers, and stairs, while older children are more likely to fall from windows or playground equipment.
Windows are an especially big risk to children. Singer and guitarist Eric Clapton famously wrote the song, “Tears in Heaven” after his four-year-old son fell to his death from a window in 1991. The window had been accidentally left open following janitorial work in the New York City apartment.
A child may experience a fatal fall anywhere inside the home, including in the:
- Bathroom. Children may slip and fall in the bathtub or shower stall, as well as on a tile floor.
- Bedroom. Any child can fall out of bed, but younger children are typically more prone to this. Falling off of a bed is also common if a child is jumping on it. Bunk beds also pose a risk, especially the top bunk. Babies or small toddlers may fall while attempting to climb out of a crib, or they can easily roll off of a changing table if the adult supervising them is not paying attention.
- Kitchen . Some children are climbers, and the kitchen counter – or the table, for that matter – is not match for them if it means accessing something they want that is stored out of reach.
- Living room, dining room, family room, or any room. Sofas, chairs, bookshelves, end tables – you name it and some children will climb it and fall from it. This includes any piece of furniture, ladder, or stepstool.
Stairs are particularly dangerous for children, as it is easy for them to trip and fall while walking up or down the stairs. In either scenario, the child is at risk of tumbling a distance and hitting not only the ground when they finally reach the bottom of the stairs, but every step along the way.
Fatal falls can also happen outside the home, including at:
- Schools and daycare centers. Gym classes, crowded stairwells, sports fields – there are plenty of places a child can fall and be injured inside a school.
- Playgrounds. Swings, slides, monkey bars, jungle gyms, see-saws, and other playground equipment are designed to encourage children to be active. However, unsupervised children or equipment that is not well-maintained may result in a child falling and being seriously injured.
- Sports fields and facilities. Every sport involves risk, but some are particularly dangerous when it relates to falls. This includes gymnastics, cheerleading, or any sport that involves lifting a child up from the ground.
- Public property. Whether walking, running, jumping, or riding a bicycle, scooter, or skateboard, a child can experience a fall that results in a trip to the doctor or emergency room. Poorly maintained sidewalks, paths, parking lots, stairways, and flooring may cause a child to fall and break a bone or suffer a head or spinal cord injury.
Does it matter where my child fell or who was supervising them?
Yes, the location where your child’s fall took place and who was responsible for their well-being at the time of their fall are both key pieces of information. For instance, if your child fell on someone else’s property – perhaps in the home of a friend or caregiver – the condition of the property may have played a role in the incident. Likewise, the level of supervision the person was providing may also be partly to blame. Children of different ages and needs require different amounts and types of supervision from the individuals entrusted with their care. If the person responsible for your child was not monitoring the child’s activity and behavior, and the child fell and was suffered fatal injuries during that time, the caregiver’s negligence may be to blame. Even if the child survived, they may have suffered severe injuries that may require extensive medical treatment and even lifelong care.
If your child was seriously injured due to fall caused by poorly maintained property or equipment, or because of someone else’s negligence, it is important that you speak with a child injury attorney. Serious injuries often mean serious medical treatment which adds up to serious medical bills. Depending on the type of injury and the severity, your child may be affected for the rest of their life. It is vital that you have an attorney fighting on behalf of your child to help ensure you receive fair compensation for their injuries and ongoing treatment and care. Contact the South Carolina child injury lawyers at McGowan, Hood & Felder, LLC for assistance today. Give us a call at 803-327-7800 or reach out to us via our contact form to schedule a free consultation with one of our South Carolina child injury attorneys.
Randy is the former President of the South Carolina Association for Justice. He has been certified by the American Board of Professional Liability as a specialist in Medical Malpractice Law which is recognized by the South Carolina Bar. Randy has also been awarded the distinction of being a “Super Lawyer” 10 times in the last decade. He has over 25 years of experience helping injured people fight back against corporations, hospitals and wrong-doers.
Read more about S. Randall Hood