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Arkansas Child Dies in Ascent Child Care Van from Excessive Heat

A family in Arkansas has suffered the loss of a five-year-old boy after he was left on a daycare van in the summer heat.  Family members told reporters that the daycare van from Ascent child care center picked up the child at 6:30 a.m. on Monday and that the van arrived at the day care around 7:15 a.m.  The child, however, never made it off the van.  Staff members found the child’s body sometime after 3 p.m. when they were loading students to go home.

West Memphis Police say that the temperature in the daycare parking lot exceeded 90 degrees on Monday.  While it is unclear why the child remained on the van, law enforcement is investigating.  The state agency which oversees and regulates daycares, the Arkansas Department of Human Services, is also investigating the child’s death.  According to initial reports, two adults were on the bus but did not see the child.

I have represented many families whose children have been injured by a daycare.  Unfortunately, the injuries that I see often occur while transporting a child.  When daycare students are transported by a vehicle to or from a daycare facility, there are established rules and procedures the daycare must follow.  Proper supervision of the children – including making sure all children have unloaded – is of paramount importance especially during the summer and winter months. These rules exist to prevent this type of tragedy that a family must now endure.  Had the rules simply been followed, the child would likely be alive.

Based on the facts that we know, the family of the child likely has a strong civil lawsuit against the day care for wrongful death.  A civil lawsuit against the daycare is designed to help the family recover money for the loss of the child and to punish the daycare for its conduct.  To be successful in a daycare injury case, the family of an injured child typically needs to be able to show that the daycare acted negligently.

To show that a daycare was negligent, the family of an injured child is normally best served by hiring an experienced daycare injury attorney.  When the family of an injured child hires me to represent them, I almost always take several steps before filing a lawsuit.  I believe that doing the following things help my clients achieve the best possible outcome:

  1. Contact the state agency overseeing day cares. Day cares are supposed to self-report to the state agency which regulates day cares any injuries that occur.  In practice, however, some day cares try to hide the fact that an injury may have occurred.  Therefore, it is important to contact the state agency to make sure that the injury is properly documented and investigated.
  1. Obtain the state agency’s final report. In any daycare injury case, the state agency in charge of regulating day cares will conduct an investigation into the injury.  The agency will interview staff members, students, and parents.  The agency will also review any documentation or video recordings related to the injury.  The agency will then make factual findings into the child’s injury or death and make conclusions as to whether the daycare violated any established safety rules.  A finding by the agency that the daycare violated safety rules can help to establish that the daycare acted negligently.
  1. Hire a medical expert. While the state agency’s findings are often helpful, a medical expert, such as a doctor or a nurse, can assist in determining how the child was injured and how the injury affected the child.  A medical expert can also rule out other possible causes of an injury or death.
  1. Send an insurance request and a demand not to destroy evidence. Not all day cares are insured.  If a daycare is not insured, it can be very difficult to recover any money from the daycare or its employees.  Therefore, it is important to know early on whether a daycare has insurance and, if so, how much insurance.  It can also be just as important to demand that the daycare not destroy evidence. It is unfortunately not uncommon for a daycare to destroy evidence such as documents or video recordings that show how an injury occurred.  Such a demand can help to preserve that evidence.
  1. Send a detailed demand. Assuming that the daycare has insurance, it helps to send a detailed demand letter to the insurance company before filing a lawsuit.  The purpose of the demand letter is settle the case prior to filing a lawsuit and litigating the case in court. The demand should explain why the day care is liable and justify the amount of money that’s being requested.  In my experience, a detailed list of witnesses and evidence often helps the insurance company arrive at a fair settlement amount.

By hiring an experienced daycare injury attorney, the family of an injured child can recover a just amount of money for their child’s injury or death.  The family of an injured child can also help to prevent future injuries by holding daycares responsible and changing their behavior.