Types of summer camp accidents and the road to compensation
This article equips you with the knowledge you need if your child is injured at a summer camp, from who may be liable to estimating the amount of compensation you’ll receive.
Summer camps provide children with enriching experiences while giving parents a much-deserved break. While these camps aim to create a safe and enjoyable environment, accidents and injuries can still occur.
As a parent, it’s important to understand your rights and legal options if your child sustains an injury at summer camp. In this article, we’ll explore common types of summer camp injuries, legal options for parents, potential compensation, and important steps to take if your child is injured at summer camp.
Common types of summer camp accidents and injuries
Summer camps are full of activities, and many of them come with inherent risks. Add to the mix lots of excited children, and accidents are bound to occur.
Here are some of the most common types of summer camp accidents and injuries:
In the past, we’ve looked at the most common summertime injuries, and many of the injuries we discussed in that article occur regularly at summer camps. These injuries include:
- Heat-related illnesses
- Sunburn and skin damage
- Insect bites and stings
More than 6 million children participate in some form of summer camp—sleep away camp or day camp. According to IBISWorld, a trusted industry research company, the market size, measured by revenue, of the summer camp industry in 2022 was $3.8 billion.
Whose liable for a summer camp injury?
To receive compensation for an accident that occurs at summer camp, you’ll have to establish that someone other than your child was responsible—or at least partially responsible—for your child’s injury. In most cases, this requires that you establish the following three elements of negligence:
- The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care. In most cases, the defendant owes the plaintiff a duty to exercise “reasonable care.” In some situations, the defendant may owe the plaintiff a more specific duty of care.
- The defendant breached the applicable duty of care. You’ll need to prove that the defendant breached the applicable duty of care.
- The plaintiff was injured as a direct result of the breach. The defendant’s breach must be the cause of the plaintiff’s injuries.
In some cases, multiple parties may be liable for a summer camp injury. Consider the following example:
Sarah attends a popular summer camp known for its outdoor activities. During a rock climbing excursion, Sarah and her group are assigned to three instructors who are responsible for guiding and supervising them. However, the instructors fail to conduct a safety briefing, neglect to assess the participants’ abilities, and underestimate the risks involved.
Before the climbing begins, Sarah is outfitted with a harness provided by the camp. Unbeknownst to her, the harness has a critical defect.
As Sarah ascends the rock face, the harness fails, causing her to plummet to the ground, resulting in severe injuries.
In the above hypothetical, several parties may be liable.
First, the camp may be liable for failing to inspect and maintain their climbing equipment and for hiring unqualified instructors. Second, the manufacturer may be liable for manufacturing a defective product. Third, the instructors may be liable for failing to conduct a safety briefing. Practically speaking, when multiple parties could potentially be liable for an accident, the attorney for the plaintiff will typically file a single lawsuit naming every potentially liable party.
Other causes of action in summer camp cases
Although negligence is the most common cause of action in a summer camp accident, other causes of action may be appropriate, including:
- Product liability. A product liability claim might be appropriate if a product was defective or lacked proper warnings.
- Medical malpractice. A medical malpractice claim might be appropriate if a doctor failed to properly diagnose a condition or gave improper advice.
- Wrongful death. A wrongful death claim might be appropriate if the summer camp participant suffered a fatal injury. Wrongful death claims can be filed by certain family members of the deceased, and are intended to compensate family members for the loss of a loved one.
Can a parent be sued for the intentional or negligent acts of their child?
In most cases, summer camp participants haven’t reached the age of majority (18 in most states). As a result, summer camp participants simply don’t have the assets to satisfy a judgment against them.
This begs the question: Can you sue the parents of a minor who injures someone through an intentional or negligent act?
All states have parental responsibility laws that govern when a parent can be held liable for the intentional or negligent acts of their child.
For example, parents in California can be held liable for the intentional or reckless misconduct of their minor children. In Oklahoma, parents can only be held liable for the criminal acts of their children.
Most states cap the amount of damages that can be recovered when suing a parent. To stick with California as an example, the Golden State limits the amount of recoverable damages to $25,000.
Type of compensation available in a summer camp accident case
There are three main types of compensation available in a summer camp accident case:
- Economic damages represent the monetary losses caused by an accident (medical expenses, property damages, lost wages, etc.).
- Non-economic damages represent the non-monetary losses caused by an accident (pain and suffering, loss of companionship, etc.).
- Punitive damages are only available in certain situations and are intended to punish the defendant and deter others from engaging in similar behavior.
Learn more about how to estimate the value of your personal injury claim, including how to keep track of expenses to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve.
Common defenses in summer camp accident cases
There are 3 defenses that are commonly raised in summer camp injury cases:
- Assumption of the risk. The assumption of the risk defense basically says that a plaintiff who voluntarily participates in an activity is owed no duty of care with respect to the obvious risks associated with the activity. However, it’s important to note that liability attaches where the defendant intentionally injures or engages in reckless misconduct beyond the scope ordinarily contemplated for the activity.
For example, if you get hit with a pitch while playing baseball at a baseball summer camp, you can’t sue anyone for your injuries because getting hit with a baseball is an inherent risk associated with the game. On the other hand, if you step in a hole while running down the first base line, you can sue the camp because stepping in a hole on a baseball diamond is beyond the obvious risks associated with the game.
- Waiver of liability. Before your child participates in camp, you may be asked to sign a waiver of liability. A waiver is simply an agreement whereby a parent releases certain parties (usually the organizing association) from any liability related to injuries suffered. Every state treats waivers differently. In some states, waivers are unenforceable. In other states, waivers are upheld if they meet specific requirements.
- Statute of limitations. A statute of limitations specifies how long you have to file a lawsuit against someone. If you fail to file a lawsuit within the applicable statute of limitations, you’ll be prohibited from recovering any damages. Most states provide that the statute of limitations doesn’t start running until the plaintiff turns 18.
Steps to take if your child is injured at a summer camp
If your child sustains an injury at summer camp, there are some steps you can take to improve your chances of recovering the compensation your child deserves.
First, it’s important to seek immediate medical attention. Including being in the best interest of your child’s health, early medical records will serve as critical evidence in your case.
Second, document the incident as thoroughly as possible. This may include taking photographs, collecting the contact information of witnesses, and obtaining incident reports.
Finally, to protect your child’s rights, it’s advisable that you meet with an experienced personal injury attorney. Keep in mind that time is of the essence, as personal injury claims are subject to the statute of limitations. Most initial consultations are free.
As a parent, understanding your rights and legal options when it comes to summer camp accidents is important. Keep in mind that each case is unique, and consulting with a qualified personal injury attorney is important to receive tailored advice based on your specific circumstances.