The Sheriff’s Office in Suwannee County, Florida recently announced an investigation into the deaths of three children who accidentally locked themselves inside a chest freezer. A homeowner had left the freezer in her yard for the trash disposal service to pick up. The children, ages 1, 4, and 6, suffocated after climbing inside and closing the lid.
While state and local laws usually require property owners to remove the doors from appliances they are discarding or storing outside, not every owner obeys this rule. Property owners should know that children are attracted to any enclosure they can fit inside. When the enclosure is airtight and has a door that locks, placing that enclosure in a yard or accessible area within reach for children, is an act of negligence.
When negligence results in a child’s death, the parent can pursue justice by bringing a wrongful death claim.
Property owners have a duty to keep their premises safe for visitors. While states have different positions about the duty a property owner owes to a trespasser, most states uniformly recognize that owners have a special duty to protect children who are likely to be attracted to dangerous conditions on their property.
Swimming pools are the most common example of an “attractive nuisance.” When a curious child decides to play in a neighbor’s swimming pool unsupervised, drowning is too often the result.
Drowning is the fifth leading cause of accidental death in the United States, and it is the second leading cause of death among children between the ages of 1 and 4. Most of those deaths occur in a home swimming pool. Nearly all such deaths are preventable.
Property owners who have swimming pools have a duty to protect children from drowning, whether or not the children have been invited to use the pool. Some property owners erect a fence around the pool while keeping the gate locked when the pool is not in use. Swimming pool owners can place a latch on the gate located above the height that a small child can reach and can install a pool fence that is tall enough so a child cannot climb over.
Other property owners place a pool cover over the pool when they are not using it. An appropriate safety cover should be designed so that a child cannot lift it and fall into the pool.
A swimming pool owner who fails to follow basic safety procedures places children at risk. When children drown in a pool, wrongful death lawyers help grieving parents send a message about the importance of pool safety.
Other Causes of Accidental Deaths of Children
While there are numerous ways children get injured and die due to accidents, common accidents include exposure to dangerous conditions such as easy access to poisons that are not properly stored, loaded guns that are not locked in a safe, and frayed electrical wires that deliver deadly shocks.
Wrongful death claims involving children also result from:
- Medical malpractice
- Medications that are unsafe for children
- Unsafe toys that cause death by choking
- Unsafe products that cause death by strangulation
- Top-heavy appliances and furniture that fall on a climbing child
- Dangerous playground equipment
- Boating accidents
- Infected dog bites
- Fires that start due to negligence
In most states, parents are allowed to bring a claim for the wrongful death of a child. The measure of compensation varies from state to state. A wrongful death lawyer in a state where negligent or intentional conduct caused a child’s death can help parents understand how they can pursue justice.