We have laws to protect children from abuse and neglect, but we can’t be inside people’s homes 24/7 to prevent it. When parents, guardians, or other caregivers neglect and abuse children in private, it can be very difficult to discover the abuse and help the children. However, there is supposed to be a safety net in place to rescue children who are being mistreated.
Caregivers who harm children are breaking the law and should be held criminally liable. But certain other adults in the child’s life are also responsible for the child’s safety, and when they fail in their duty to protect the child, they can—and should—also be held liable. We explain who can be charged with negligent child supervision and how a lawsuit for damages could give the injured child a brighter future.
What Is Negligent Supervision?
We understand what it means to abuse or neglect a child, but what does it mean to negligently supervise a child? Generally speaking, when a child suffers not because an adult intentionally harmed them but because an adult failed to keep a close eye on them and provide an environment free of hazards, we call that negligent supervision.
Negligent supervision can occur anywhere a child is in the care of an adult. It can happen in the child’s own home or a caregiver’s home, at school or day care, in the locker room or athletic field, at Sunday school or church, at day or sleepaway camp, at a Girl or Boy Scout meeting or event, at a playground or park, or walking down the street. Anyone placed in charge of a minor child can face civil liability if harm comes to the child because they failed to supervise them adequately.
There is no all-inclusive list of actions that could be considered negligent supervision, but some common examples include:
- Failing to secure dangerous items. If a child is injured by a gun, knife, chemical, poisonous substance, boiling liquid, hot stove, alcohol, or other hazardous items, the adult in charge could be found liable.
- Allowing access to unsuitable items. Allowing a child to use machinery, vehicles, tools, or equipment that are not age-appropriate could lead to an injury and a charge of negligent supervision.
- Failing to stop others from harming a child. Failing to stop an animal, another child, or a delinquent parent or adult from causing physical harm to the child could be considered negligent.
- Failing to seek necessary medical care. Improper care of a sick or injured child could be grounds for civil liability if the adult should have known the child needed treatment.
- Failing to secure the child’s surroundings. Protecting a child from threats in the environment, including traffic, open windows, swimming pools, balconies, and staircases, are part of a caregiver’s job. If a child is injured by one of these hazards, the caregiver could be liable.
Whether the negligent caregiver is brought up on criminal charges would be up to law enforcement. However, if the child required medical care for their injuries and a liability insurance policy covers the negligent adult, the caregiver and their employer can be made to pay with or without a criminal conviction.
What Is Michigan’s Mandated Reporter Law?
Another form of negligent supervision involves mandated reporters who fail to report suspected child abuse or neglect. These adults work in professions that regularly interact with children and therefore have a duty to be alert to signs of abuse or neglect. They also have a duty to listen to and believe children when they share disturbing stories. In Michigan, the list of mandated reporters is long, but they know who they are. Medical providers, teachers, social workers, counselors, clergy members, law enforcement officers, regulated childcare providers, DHS employees, and others are all informed of their duties as mandated reporters during the professional licensing process.
If a mandated reporter fails to inform their superiors or the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) of their suspicions of abuse or neglect and that child is further harmed in the future, they can be held liable. The agencies, schools, churches, day care centers, and hospitals that employ these people carry liability insurance that should be paid out to children who have suffered due to their negligence.
Speak Up for an Injured Child
Whether you are a parent whose child was injured at school, a grandparent who knows that a child was seen in the ER before being re-injured by an abuser, or a friend who believes that a mandated reporter failed to protect a child, it’s up to you to speak on behalf of the child. Contact us to schedule a free consultation to find out if we can help guide an innocent child who is suffering to the bright future they deserve.