School is out and the kids need running. Dad takes his kids to the playground. That’s good. One of his kids falls and is injured. That’s bad. Mom consults with an injury lawyer like me. That’s good. Lawyer is instructed to sue the municipality who owns the park. That’s good? That’s bad?
Ugghhhh. I dunno what to do (lawyer’s inner monologue).
This is a hard topic to address and one that always makes me feel conflicted. My favourite hobbies are mountain biking, snowboarding, cross country skiing and snowshoeing, hunting, and soccer – usually I have one of my gaggle of kids with me. I don’t even have a TV in my house. I love the outdoors. I think municipalities and governments both large and small have a duty to encourage recreation, and thus it is understandable they would be peeved (to put it mildly) if sued for an injury on a playground. Even objectively normal playgrounds can be the site of tragic injuries to small children. What is a municipality to do? Get rid of all the playgrounds?
As an injury lawyer I have a duty to pursue my client’s case with all my skill. However, I don’t have a duty to take every case that comes through the door. As a lawyer I also have a duty to engage with my clients, the law, the courts, and the public in a way that helps shape a better society.
Current trends in kids’ cell phone usage, social media addiction, and time spent on video games are astonishing. Any outdoor activities are to be encouraged – tobogganing, soccer, ice skating, swimming in public pools and beaches, all are to be encouraged. All of these activities come with normal risks. Even if I get past the question of actual fault – as in – was the risk assumed – I am often hesitant to start these claims. I would hate for a municipality to close their tobogganing hill, close their public beaches, or close their public skateboard parks to the thousands of kids and families who use them because of the injury (and lawsuit) of my lone client.
What if the child fell at the playground and broke his wrist but the doctors say it will heal fine in 6 weeks? Unless there is some extenuating circumstance, I’ll likely turn this case away. Lawyer Bob down the road might take this case, but not me. What if it’s the exact same broken wrist but it happened at a Big Box store?
I’ll take that case and file the claim the next day.
Why the difference? Big Box stores aren’t going to shut down their business because of my client’s claim.
But what if it’s not a broken wrist – what if a child is injured on a playground, or in a soccer game, or a public pool and is brain injured or paralyzed? What is a family to do when they are facing a lifetime of expenses and uncertainty?
I think most families would leave no stone unturned in trying to figure out how to pay for those expenses. That’s what I will recommend they do. I will start a claim and fight for every dollar. I will help that family do the best they can for their child, even if it means litigating a complicated and lengthy claim with the insurer for the municipality.