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Children and Camp Injuries
The memories kids make at camp last a lifetime. Forging new friendships, participating in enjoyable recreational activities, and learning new skills are all part of the experience. Whether it’s a summer day camp, a specialized sports or music camp, or a sleepaway camp in the wilderness, tens of thousands of Canadian children participate in these programs every year.
Unfortunately, for some children, not all their camp memories will be positive; this is especially true if they experience a traumatic injury during their camp experience. Whether they suffer physical harm from accidents or assaults, or emotional and psychological damage from harassment or abuse, some children emerge from their time at camp with debilitating injuries and even permanent disabilities.
Sometimes no one is to blame for unfortunate camp accidents; in other cases a camp operator’s negligence or the actions of camp counsellors or other campers cause harm. A camper who has suffered a summer camp injury or other camp injury while enrolled at a camp may be able to claim compensation and damages for their losses. By consulting an experienced, knowledgeable and skilled pediatric injury lawyer about the nature of your child’s camp accident, you can learn if they may be able access funds to assist in their recovery. As one of Canada’s top-rated law firms in this field, Gluckstein Personal Injury Lawyers is here to answer your questions about serious camp injuries and help you and your loved ones in any way we can.
Types of Camp Programs.
When many people hear that a child is “at camp,” their first thought will likely be of summer camps. Organized camp programs for kids have been operating in Ontario since the beginning of the 20th century, and currently there are hundreds of accredited private residential (sleep-away) camps and many more day camp programs that operate during the summer months.
In recent times, camp programs have been expanded to other periods when children are not otherwise in school, including spring break, winter holidays, and on professional development days for teachers and education staff. With fewer stay-at-home parents or multi-generational households able to provide childcare during periods when children are not in school, the popularity of these camps has risen. Governments have also taken steps to make a camp option more affordable for families by providing tax credits to parents who enroll their children and/or subsidize spaces for lower-income participants.
Generally, all camps provide a schedule of recreational activities for children. Many camps promote building certain life skills (leadership, independence, socialization) while some will focus on particular skill sets or themes (religion, cultural communities, sports, music, wilderness survival). The most common types of camps include:
- Municipal day camps (run out of local parks and recreation facilities).
- Private day camps (run by organizations such as the YMCA, religious institutions, and as private businesses).
- Residential (sleep away) camps where campers live for a period of time (most often run by private groups).
Responsibilities of Camp Operators.
Whatever the type of camp a child attends, whoever is supervising the campers functions “in loco parentis,” or in place of the parent - similar to the role of teachers and principals at schools. Under common law, camp counsellors and their supervisors owe a duty of care to these young participants that is comparable to that of a prudent and careful parent. Camp operators are also bound by the Occupier’s Liability Act to keep these children and other visitors reasonably safe from harm while they are using camp facilities or the camp property generally.
These duties include:
- Training and vetting staff who will be working with children and instituting a safe staff to camper ratio
- Making reasonable efforts to monitor children to ensure they are engaged in safe play and activities in appropriate spaces.
- Teaching or training children if they are to engage in activities that require special skills to do safely.
- Providing children with safety equipment needed for activities.
- Ensuring the facilities and the property are reasonably safe to use and free of obvious hazards, and drawing a visitor’s attention to hazards that cannot be removed.
- Adhering to all legal requirements and regulations when offering specific services to campers (such as meal preparation).
To fulfill these duties, many camp programs have instituted their own policies to enhance the care they provide. These may include:
- knowing of a child’s special individual needs, including if they have medical conditions requiring care or allergies to substances.
- establishing schedules and checklists for supervision, cleaning, and property maintenance.
- creating a code of conduct for campers that stresses mutual respect for one another and counsellors.
- protecting the privacy of campers.
- instituting safe arrival and departure plans.
When campers are injured.
In spite of all the safety measures in place, precautions, and care provided to campers, accidents and injuries can still happen. In these cases, if everyone took reasonable care to keep a camper safe and assist them when they were hurt, no one would be liable for these injuries. However, if camp operators and staff have breached the required standard of care due to negligence and a camper is injured, the injured person may be able to sue the individuals and/or organizations responsible for compensation and damages.
Potential camp accidents and injuries include:
- Slips, trips and falls
- Sports accidents.
- Severe allergic reactions ( food allergies, medication allergies)
- Defective product and equipment injuries.
- Unaddressed harassment.
- Physical assaults.
- Sexual assaults or abuse.
Who is accountable?
If a camp counsellor, supervisor or an organization responsible for the camp has been negligent, breached their duty of care, and the harm done was foreseeable, they should be held liable for damages the camper suffered. However, prior to enrolling a child, many camps require parents or guardians to sign waivers designed to release camp operators and staff from liability for their negligent actions or inaction.
These liability waivers can act as a bar to establishing liability in personal injury lawsuits by campers. But simply signing one of these release forms will not, in itself, necessarily disqualify a claim for compensation for damages. Effective waivers must explicitly release camp operators/staff from liability based on both the child’s actions and their own negligence. Before accepting these forms as valid releases of liability, courts will assess the document’s clauses, how it was presented and explained to a signee, and a person’s capacity to understand and consent to it, among other factors. Moreover, even if these waivers are well-crafted and well-communicated to participants, courts have been disinclined to accept that minors should give up basic legal rights.
Therefore, even if you’ve signed a waiver prior to your child’s camp accident, there may still be ways to build a case for a negligence claim using statute law (such as the Occupier’s Liability Act) and common law precedent. Depending on the circumstances of the incident, individuals (camp supervisors, counsellors and even other campers) and entities (the business or organization facilitating the camp experience) could be liable or share liability.
When Your Child Is Hurt.
We expect to see our children return home from camp with smiles on their faces, eager to tell us about all of the fun they had. When they come back to us severely injured and/or traumatized, it is completely normal to feel hurt, angry, sad, and even guilty for what happened to them. As you work through these emotions, help your child with their recovery, and give them care as they go through their own grieving process for their losses, you should know you are not alone.
Gluckstein Personal Injury Lawyers’ camp accidents team is here to help in any way we can. When you contact us for a no cost, no obligation initial consultation, we will listen to your story with great empathy, take time to clearly outline your various options, and explain the ways we may be able to help. If we believe we can successfully make an injury claim for compensation and damages on your behalf, we will offer to be your legal representative.
In choosing Gluckstein Personal Injury Lawyers, you are putting your trust in one of Canada’s top ranked personal injury firms. Recognized by our peers in the legal field for our knowledge, skill and experience in handling even the most complex cases, our firm has developed a strong reputation for getting our clients results. We are confident in our ability to access the funds our clients need and deserve. Therefore, we cover all costs associated with the case and will only ever accept payment if we are successful in negotiating a fair settlement for you and your loved one or winning an award from the court.
Full-Circle Client Care.
At Gluckstein Personal Injury Lawyers, we treat our clients as we would treat our own family. Our renowned client liaisons are available to assist you throughout the legal process, explain the steps of the case, and answer any questions you may have. Moreover, as some of these liaisons have experienced their own personal injury cases, they have a good understanding of what you may be feeling. Sometimes they can anticipate your needs by connecting you with resources or simply checking in to provide support on your healing journey.
If your child has been seriously injured in a camp accident, trust the team at Gluckstein Personal Injury Lawyers to be your fierce advocate for justice. Contact us today to learn how we can help you.
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