Summer camp is a fixture of childhood in America, offering a multitude of options for children to play, explore, and learn when school is not in session. Whatever your child is interested in, from computers to horseback riding to rock climbing, there is doubtless a camp to stimulate his or her interests.
Though camps can provide opportunities for children to dive into activities that may not be available during the school year, the camp environment often poses more risks than the classroom. Injuries at summer camp are fairly common, and if you are planning to send your children to camp this summer, it may be wise to consider in advance how best to keep your kids safe.
Common Injury Risks at Camp
Summer camps are often held near swimming pools or bodies of water like lakes or rivers so that children can take part in water-related activities. Though these activities can help beat the heat, they are also inherently dangerous. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 3 children die in the U.S. every day due to drowning. In a summer camp situation when pools or lakes are typically crowded, it can be difficult for lifeguards and counselors to keep track of every single child. Because children have varying levels of proficiency in the water, a counselor may assume a child is a better swim than he or she actually is.
Slips and falls are always a possibility at camp, particularly around water, while playing sports, or climbing. According to the CDC, trauma related to falls are the most common form of non-fatal injuries for children. Typical injuries related to falls are broken bones, lacerations, bruises, and head injuries. A camp could be held liable for a child’s injury if the environment they provide does not meet basic safety standards.
Burns are a risk at camps that build campfires regularly. Kids’ boundless energy and excitement when hanging out with friends at camp can translate to carelessness; when there are a lot of children jockeying for position around a campfire, all it takes is one accidental push or shove to seriously burn a child.
Severe sunburn, dehydration, or heatstroke can pose a risk at summer camp if kids are spending a lot of time outdoors. Kids need to be properly hydrated and sunscreen must be reapplied throughout the day. Counselors may not recognize the signs of dehydration or overexposure, and may be overwhelmed with too many children to watch to ensure that each child is properly protected.
Responsibilities of Camp Administration and Staff
Camps are responsible for hiring trustworthy, responsible staff to run their programs. Background checks must be conducted on all potential staff members who have contact with children, according to the American Camp Association. In fact Pennsylvania state law requires employees who are responsible for child welfare to have a background check. If a camp hires employees without doing background checks, they could be liable if an employee causes a child to become injured either by negligence or abuse.
Even if camp staff has the best intentions, if they are not well trained, there may be a greater possibility of camper injury. Many camps hire very young and inexperienced staff that may be more likely to be distracted or less than vigilant.
Liability Waivers for Summer Camp
Most camps require families to fill out paperwork and sign liability waivers that force parents to acknowledge there is a certain level of risk associated with the activities at the camp. For example, a computer camp has different risks than a soccer camp.
When you sign a waiver, you assume responsibility for whatever risk is inherently involved in the activities and absolve the camp of liability. Some waivers attempt to prevent parents from filing a lawsuit. However, if camps are deemed negligent or reckless, waivers cannot necessarily protect them from a lawsuit. An experienced attorney will be able to determine what role the liability waiver will play in a lawsuit.
How to Prepare Your Children for a Safe Camp Experience
There are certainly ways you can prepare your child to have the safest camp experience as possible. Make sure your child wears closed-toed shoes like sneakers or tennis shoes rather than flip-flops. Have your child get to bed on time so that he or she is well rested on camp days. Remind them to stay hydrated and check water bottles at pick-up time to ensure they drank enough water throughout the day. Assemble a safety kit for your child, and make sure they know how to use the supplies. A simple kit can include:
- Any medications labeled with name and instructions
- Sunscreen 30 SPF or higher
- Lip balm
- Bug spray
- Whistle to signal for help
- Adhesive bandages
- Hand sanitizer
- Water bottle
It can also be helpful to introduce yourself to the counselors and discuss any safety concerns with them before dropping your child off.
Has Your Child Been Hurt at Summer Camp?
If your child has been injured at a summer camp, you should contact an experienced attorney right away. The attorneys at Donaghue & Labrum understand the trauma involved when children are hurt, and we will handle the legal process so that you can focus on caring for your child. Your family deserves to be compensated for any suffering endured due to the negligent behavior of another, and we will fight until you receive what is rightfully yours. Call us today to set up a consultation at one of our Media or West Chester offices.