As a place to form friendships, experience nature, and learn new skills, summer camp can be a great experience for kids of all ages. However, summer camps are also full of potential hazards and opportunities for injury in the absence of careful supervision. We sincerely hope your family will stay safe this summer, but if your child is injured while staying at a summer camp in Pennsylvania, Chester County personal injury lawyer Brent Wieand may be able to help your family recover compensation.
Liability Waivers: Are Summer Camps Responsible for Injuries to Children?
It is common for summer camps to use waivers which release the camp from liability in the event that a camper is injured or killed by participating in camp activities. Some camps require only the parent to sign, while others require signatures from both parent and child.
On one hand, liability waivers are legal contracts. If you sign, and your child is later injured, the defense will use your agreement to the waiver as ammunition to argue that the park and its employees should not be held liable. However, just because you sign a liability waiver, that does not necessarily mean its terms are enforceable. As we discussed in an earlier article on filing a lawsuit after signing a liability waiver, courts have both allowed and disallowed lawsuits by injury victims who had previously signed such agreements.
Though parents should be cautioned that waivers are generally upheld by Pennsylvania courts –notwithstanding duress, fraud, or other invalidating factors – these cases can involve complex legal considerations because of the fact that children are minors. Various Pennsylvania courts have ruled that parents cannot waive away their children’s rights, which means that the child may have a claim even if the parent signed an agreement. Under 23 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 5101(a), only individuals who are at least 18 years old “have the right to enter into binding and legally enforceable contracts.”
What Are the Major Injury Hazards at Summer Camp?
Even modern, well-furnished summer camps can be rife with hazards – some of them hidden – for the children who attend.
For example, many summer camps feature pools or are built around natural bodies of water like lakes and rivers. Most camps offer water-related recreational activities, like swimming and rowing, which can lead to tragic drowning accidents or submersion injuries when lifeguards – often teenagers with little experience – leave their posts, get distracted by their phones or peers, go on duty while intoxicated, or simply fail to recognize the warning signs of drowning, which are more subtle than often depicted in movies and TV shows, as we explained in our article on Philadelphia child drowning deaths. Broken and defective products, such as old lifejackets that no longer inflate properly, pose another drowning hazard, as do pool defects like defective suction systems.
Other summer camp dangers that can lead to accidents and injuries include:
- Lack of adult supervision. Kids are curious and have tons of energy, and can accidentally injure themselves in a matter of seconds. Children should be carefully supervised around fire pits, grills, and bodies of water in order to reduce the risk of burns or drowning.
- Unsafe property conditions, like soggy old floorboards or rotted wooden stairs, which can lead to a slip and fall injury. Brittle, frayed, or damp electric wires also pose a fire hazard for third degree burn injuries. These hazards can lead to wrongful death.
- Employees who lack training, or who have criminal backgrounds. Pennsylvania law requires adults who work around children to undergo extensive background checks. Nonetheless, the American Camp Association (ACA) reports that only a quarter of U.S. camps are accredited, meaning about 75% don’t meet the ACA’s rigorous safety criteria.
Was Your Son or Daughter Hurt While Camping? Contact a Malvern Personal Injury Attorney
If your son or daughter was injured while staying at a summer camp in Chester County, Montgomery County, Bucks County, or other locations in the Delaware Valley, you may be able to get compensated for your child’s medical bills, including surgery and hospitalization. It may also be possible to get compensated for pain and suffering.
Liability waivers can pose an obstacle to recovery, but are not always enforceable, and should be closely reviewed by a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer in Delaware County. To go over your claim in a free and confidential legal consultation, call the Wieand Law Firm, LLC at (800) 481-5206 today. If your child got hurt because a responsible adult failed to take care of them, you have a right to get answers.
*Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes and is not legal advice. The Wieand Law Firm, LLC is based in Philadelphia, PA, and proud to serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey.*