Are You Liable When a Child is Injured in Your Care?


This week a family child care provider wrote me:

“A five year old came to my home from preschool and brought in pea gravel from the school playground. He and a four year old girl were playing and he convinced her to put a pebble in her ear. She came to me crying and when I couldn’t get it out I called her mother.

They went to the emergency room and the on-call doctor pushed it in further while trying to take it out. They went to a specialist the next day where the child ended up in surgery.

The family has a high deductible medical insurance policy. They don’t want to pay the large medical bill and asked me to pay some of the cost.

Am I liable?”

The short answer is yes. Since you are the responsible adult while children are in your care, in general, you are liable for any injury suffered by a child.

Your homeowners insurance policy is unlikely to cover you in this situation. If you have business liability insurance you will probably be covered for medical expenses up to around $10,000.

If you don’t have business liability insurance, you should tell the parent you don’t have insurance. This may discourage them from trying to sue you. You could offer to pay some of the medical bill in the hope that this will end the matter. However, if the child later suffers complications, the parents could decide to sue you later. If they do, you are likely to lose.

With more and more families forced to purchase health insurance policies with high deductibles, this scenario is likely to occur more often. Your only protection is to purchase adequate business liability insurance. See my article, “The Real Risks in Family Child Care.”

Whenever there is an injury to a child in your program, take the following steps:

1) Report it immediately to your child care licensor

2) Report it immediately to your business liability insurance agent

3) Keep a careful written log of all events surrounding the incident

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Categories: Legal, Legal & Insurance

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