Who Is Responsible When Your Child Breaks a Bone on the Playground?

child with broken arm in front of playground equipment

Playgrounds are not just places for children to socialize. They are also one of the most likely places a child will suffer a broken bone. More than half of all playground injuries involve fractures to one or more bones, and most of the hospitalizations from fractures involve children breaking an arm, wrist, or finger.

Why Do Children Suffer Broken Bones on Playgrounds?

Falls are the most common reason children visit the hospital for playground bone fractures. Even playgrounds that have impact-absorbing surfaces may not provide enough protection when it comes to the bones in the arms and legs. While these surfaces have been shown to reduce head injuries, they may not be as effective in preventing long bone fractures, hairline fractures, and ankle sprains.

Children may break a bone on a variety of play equipment or environmental hazards, including:

  • Climbing structures. Rock walls, monkey bars, climbing frames, and other structures where children can change levels quickly are a particular hazard. Many children are treated in emergency rooms each year because they lost their grip while climbing and landed on a hard surface, causing arm, leg, and skull fractures.
  • Swings. Children often jump off of a swing as it propels forward, landing on the hard surface of the play area. Even if kids land on their feet, they could still suffer fractures in their toes, ankles, and the growing bones in the lower leg.
  • Merry-go-rounds. Moving playground equipment can cause any number of injuries. Children who are thrown from a merry-go-round may suffer pelvic fractures, while those who become entangled in play equipment may break limbs caught in between moving parts.
  • Seesaws. A fall from the top of a seesaw can result in a broken wrist, elbow, or collarbone, while slamming back down to the ground on the seat may cause a broken tailbone.
  • Slides. Children under the age of five are particularly likely to suffer bone fractures on slides, especially if they are accompanied by an adult. The child’s foot may get caught underneath the adult’s leg, causing a twisting injury that fractures the shinbone (known as a toddler’s fracture).
  • Tripping hazards. Children do not have to fall from a great height to break a bone. Tripping over uneven boards on play structures or exposed tree roots can cause broken arms or facial fractures, particularly if the child was running before the fall.
  • Platforms and guardrails. The National Playground Safety Institute (NPSI) recommends that all raised platforms have two- to four-foot high guardrails around them to prevent falls. Unfortunately, many guardrails are too low, broken, missing, or not installed properly. Many more are not sturdy enough to restrain children or have enough space between slats for a child to fit through.

Who Is Responsible for a Child’s Playground Injury?

There could be many people whose negligence played a role in your child’s injury. For example, the owners of the playground should ensure that the property is free of hazards that could potentially cause harm. The operators of daycares and schoolyards have a duty to make sure that children are properly supervised while playing.

On the other hand, the injury may have been caused by a defect in the equipment itself. In this case, the manufacturer of playground equipment could be liable for designing structures that are not safe for children to use. Also, the person who built and installed the structure may not have followed instructions to make sure the equipment was put together properly. 

If your child was injured on a playground in Tennessee, we can determine who is at fault and what your family may be owed under the law. Our lawyers provide injury clients with a free initial consultation and represent their interests on a contingent fee basis, meaning we do not collect anything unless we secure a recovery for you. To learn more about your claim, download a free copy of our book, The 10 Worst Mistakes You Can Make With Your Tennessee Injury Case.