Summer Camp: Injury Risks Mixed in With the Fun
For kids, the first few days of summer are the best! With their days of teachers and homework (temporarily) behind them, there is nothing more gratifying than that first drip in the pool or trip to the playground, as they can bask in the realization that they have a whole summer to play, explore, and relax. But the pool and playground can quickly get boring, and kids—and their parents—might find themselves asking “well, what now?” as the hot summer starts to drag on. Thankfully for both adventure-seeking kids and need-some-alone-time parents, summer camp is an option.
The Benefits of Summer Camp (For Kids AND Parents)
According to the American Camp Association, 14 million children attend summer camps every year in the United States. Many attend sleepaway camps, where they stay overnight at a camp for a period of several days or weeks. Others attend day camps, where they participate in daily activities but return home at the end of the day. Some camps cover an array of activities, from horseback riding to pottery, while others have a specific focus, like taekwondo or cooking. With over 14,000 camps in the United States, there is sure to be something to interest even the pickiest kids.
No matter the focus, summer camps have many benefits. While attending a camp over the summer, kids have the opportunity to:
- Stay engaged, active, and healthy over the summer
- Discover new passions and interests through trying new activities
- Develop new friendships, especially with other children that they might not otherwise have the opportunity to interact with
- Learn about teamwork
- Develop important skills, like self-reliance and self-confidence
- Gain maturity and responsibility
For parents, particularly working or single parents that cannot devote their entire summer to keeping their kids engaged and entertained, camp is a way to make sure their child continues to grow, thrive, and have fun over the summer.
Injury Risks at Summer Camp
However, summer camps are not always all fun and games. Since many involve outdoor activities, from hiking to canoeing, there is an injury risk that comes with attending camp. For parents with children at sleepaway camps, this can be a terrifying thought.
Some common injuries associated with summer camps include:
- Minor cuts, scrapes, and bruises
- Broken bones
- Burns and sunburns
- Animal bites
- Rashes from exposure to poisonous plants
- Concussions and head trauma from falls or accidents during sports or activities
Illness is also a common occurrence at summer camps. In fact, according to the American Camp Association, there are also twice as many instances of illnesses as there are physical injuries. At summer camp, illnesses can include everything from the common cold to gastrointestinal issues like norovirus.
Thankfully, most summer camp injuries and illnesses are minor and can be treated by on-site nurses or trained counselors. Most camps are well-equipped to deal with a medical issue and have a safe, efficient plans in place. Still, an injured or sick child is a major concern for parents. What can they do to hold the summer camp liable?
Who is Liable for a Summer Camp Injury?
If the parent signs a liability waiver, there might not be much they can do. Similar to a waiver that a parent might sign before a school field trip, a summer camp waiver will likely have the parent acknowledge that any risk is voluntarily assumed. This means that when a child participates in an activity, even a potentially dangerous one, they (and their parent or guardian) are aware of the risks and assume responsibility for any injuries. By having parents assume responsibility, summer camps protect themselves from liability.
Unfortunately, a “blanket” statement such as this often protects the summer camp from being held responsible for any injuries, regardless of the circumstances. For example, if a counselor is negligently ignoring a child while they swim in a lake, leading to a near-drowning, it might still be hard to hold them responsible if the parent signed a waiver.
On the other hand, some types of liability forms might outline the risks associated with certain activities. If a child is participating in hiking, for example, assumed risks might include falls, animal bites, rashes from plants, or weather-related injuries. But if a hiking child is injured by something that is not an inherent risk—the violent actions of a stranger in the woods, for an extreme example—the camp might be liable for any inappropriate response. This kind of form, unlike a blanket consent form, gives parents and guardians a little more leeway.
Preparation and Prevention
Due to issues like blanket forms and assumed liability, it is a good idea to talk with an attorney following a summer camp injury, as they can help you sort through your legal options. To prevent injuries in the first place, though, follow these summer camp tips:
- Look for a camp that is licensed and accredited with the American Camp Association
- For sleepaway camps, make sure your child has everything they will need, from medications to sunscreen, and know what is and isn’t allowed at the camp
- Make sure you make sure the camps knows about any special needs, like medication or disabilities, in advance
- Ask what the camp does to keep its camper safe, and if possible, get a tour of the camp to see where your child will be sleeping, eating, and spending the day
- Learn about the camp’s procedures in the event of a medical emergency or illness
- Remind your child to follow all the safety tips provided by the camp
- Make sure your kid is ready before going to camp. If they are not mature enough, don’t force them to go to a sleepaway camp
With the right combination of trained camp professionals, prepared parents, and responsible kids, summer camp can be an adventure that will never be forgotten!
The attorneys at Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes represent those involved in car accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and other types of personal injury matters. Our firm is one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Tampa Bay. There are no attorneys’ fees or costs unless we prevail for you. Call our office 24 hours a day at 727-796-8282 or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.