Bucks County, Pennsylvania parents expressed outrage after it was revealed that a school bus driver left a child in a bus unattended. The incident occurred last Tuesday. The student was left in the car from about 9:30 a.m. until 12 p.m. The student was first treated by an on-site nurse but was later taken to the hospital for observation and evaluation. The student was released from hospital care later in the day. Catastrophic injury or death did not occur in this instance, but it was luckily only a close call for the child, the child’s family, and the bus driver.
Disaster was likely averted in this case due to several fortuitous factors. First, the incident occurred in the earlier portion of the day. While serious injury due to heat stroke in a confined space can happen at any time, it is generally more likely to occur in the heat of the day. Second, the weather on the morning of Tuesday, July 15th was in the low 80s. Similar to the first factor, injury can still occur when the temperature is in the low-80s but the risk increases significantly as temperatures climb into the 90s and above. In fact, studies have shown that the danger of vehicular heatstroke can even occur when ambient temperature is a relatively comfortable 70 degrees. However, it is important to note that luck was the only factor that averted disaster in this instance. Caregivers of any type must ensure that they perform their duties and responsibilities for the children that depend on them.
Heat stroke in children due to being left in an abandoned vehicle is a completely preventable injury. If your child was left in a vehicle by his or her school, summer camp, sports camp or other caregiver you may be entitled to compensation. If the unthinkable happened and your child was permanently injured or passed away due to negligence we can work to bring justice through a wrongful death suit.
How Often Do Children Suffer Heatstroke Deaths Due to Being Left in Cars?
A study published in the Pediatrics medical journal by the Department of Earth & Climate Sciences at San Francisco University have identified 606 media reports of child death due to vehicular heatstroke since 1998. In 2013, the study identified a minimum of 44 heatstroke deaths. Of those, 39 deaths are confirmed and 5 are likely due to the circumstances. As of mid-July an update to the study has identified 17 child deaths thus far in 2014.
Unfortunately, a parent, guardian or other caregiver who forgets the child in the car is most common reason a child is abandoned in a car. Of the cases identified by the study 51%, or 312 children, were simply forgotten. However, a myriad of other reasons also cause vehicular heatstroke in children. 29% of heatstroke deaths occurred when a child played in an unattended vehicle. Finally, it is absolutely heart-breaking to report that 18% — nearly 1 in five – deaths occurred because the caregiver intentionally left the child in the vehicle.
How Can Situations Like These Be Avoided?
Once again, absent extremely unusual circumstances this type of injury or death is 100% preventable if individuals and organizations implement simple common-sense steps. An essential element of a comprehensive safety plan for bus companies and childcare facilities could include the development and implementation of a safety checklist when boarding or exiting a vehicle. Further by ensuring that a staff member thoroughly inspects each seat and the areas underneath the seats the likelihood of a forgotten child decreases significantly. Education programs that make parents and caregivers aware of the danger can also decrease the likelihood of tragic mistakes. Finally, an advocacy group is urging car manufacturers to develop a safety system to alert the driver of a forgotten passenger. The reason that safety warning systems have been developed to encourage seat belt use and promote safe airbag usage.
For more than 34 years the attorneys of The Reiff Law Firm have stood-up for those injured or wrongfully killed due to another’s negligence. We provide free and confidential legal consultations. To schedule your consultation call (215) 246-9000 or contact us online.