The Legal Way Episode 11 | Tiny Victims, Big Questions: Uncovering Daycare Negligence in Pennsylvania

In this episode of The Legal Way podcast, we are joined by Friedman Schuman medical malpractice attorneys Melissa Paris Miller and Megan G. Knoll as we turn our attention to a pressing issue – daycare negligence within the realm of medical malpractice. Join us as we explore the critical dimensions of this sensitive topic, discussing real-life cases, legal considerations, and the profound impact daycare negligence can have on children and their families. Whether you’re a concerned parent, legal professional, or simply interested in understanding the complexities of medical malpractice law, this episode offers a deep dive into an issue that deserves our attention and scrutiny.

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT:

Alyson: Hi, everyone, and welcome back to The Legal Way podcast by Friedman Schuman. My name is Alyson Layser, and I’m your host. I’m also the Director of Marketing here at Friedman Schuman. Today, I am joined by two guests, Melissa Miller and Megan Knoll, two of our medical malpractice attorneys, and we are going to be talking about the topic of daycare negligence. They have a lot of really great information to share, and I’m really excited for us to dive into this topic. So before we dive in, I’m gonna let you to introduce yourselves. So, Melissa, Megan, feel free to take it away.

Melissa: So, I’ve been an attorney for 12 years and I do medical malpractice as well as daycare negligence cases, products liability and other types of crime victim cases. I’ve been working at Freeman Schuman for almost eight years and this topic in particular, the daycare negligence hits really close to home. I have twin girls who are daycare age and being a parent, especially having to help families who’ve been in this type of situation is difficult. But I think also we understand firsthand how important it is to find a safe and loving and caring provider when parents have to be working.

Alyson: Absolutely.

Megan: Hi everyone, my name is Megan Knoll and I have been practicing for about seven years now. I practice primarily personal injury and medical malpractice cases as well as daycare negligence. And this also hits close to home for me as well. I have a daughter, so I have recently gone through this process of selecting a safe place to take her and a place that I’m comfortable with entrusting my child to.

Alyson: And your daughter is so precious.

Megan: Thank you.

Alyson: So cute. I love seeing the pictures of them. They’re adorable. So, let’s dive into the topic with the first question. So, daycare negligence. What steps can parents take to ensure that they choose a good daycare facility, and especially one that prioritizes and minimizes the risk of negligence?

Megan: Sure, so in Pennsylvania, there are exceptional resources for parents to rely on when selecting a daycare for their child. The Department of Human Resources really oversees the management and inspections of these daycare facilities. So, there are many options online that parents can access. They can see the inspection reports of the daycares. They also administer something called Keystone STARS, and that’s a rating system that is given to a daycare based on a number of factors, but there are great resources there to see how many stars, I believe it’s ranked between one to four stars, four being the best, to see how they compare to other local daycares in your area. Also just doing your due diligence, going to the daycare, taking a tour of the daycare, talking to the teachers there or the director there about things like child to staff ratios. Obviously, the lower number of children per teacher, your child will receive more one-on-one care, which is important. Talking about curriculum, what your child will be experiencing in a day-to-day way in the daycare. There are also resources like portals where parents can access those throughout the day, even live video streams of the daycare. So, you can really feel comfortable with your child being there you also can feel like you have a handle on what’s happening there.

Melissa: Yeah, I think also just reading reviews online. Sometimes if you search on Facebook, for example, there are parents’ groups for these daycares, and you can read or post in there. In some local areas, they even have parent community groups where you could post, say, I’m interested in sending my child to these places. You know, do you have any experience? And people can either reply or direct message you. So obviously getting word of mouth on these places is just as important as going on the tour there. Some facilities have apps where parents are getting photos sent to them throughout the day, updated on the child’s schedule or needs. So, there’s a lot of different options. There are more corporate daycares, there’s in-home facilities, any daycare that is registered with the state is being monitored by the Department of Health and like Megan said, you can access that information online.

Alyson: That’s really great to know. I mean, I think a lot of people when they’re looking at daycare facilities, they probably know you can go to Facebook and check the reviews, but it’s nice to hear that it is really being monitored on a very high level. So, it’s definitely worth it to check out while you’re making those decisions. So, moving on to the next question, what actions can parents take if they suspect that maybe their child has fallen victim of daycare negligence and how can they best protect their legal rights in these types of situations?

Melissa: So oftentimes we’re seeing families and children who are victims of this type of negligence, they’ve sustained some kind of injury. Obviously, there are different types of injuries, you know, either physical injuries, emotional injuries. So first, it’s very important that the child is being seen by some medical provider. In some instances, it might be more appropriate to take the child to the hospital. Pediatrician is always a good resource. And a pediatrician can also recommend families to therapists, there’s different types of therapy. Especially for children, talk therapy isn’t necessarily appropriate given their age. So, there’s play therapy and also family therapy. So, definitely first, going to a medical provider is important. Reporting your concerns to the facility or in some circumstances the police might be appropriate. You need to document when you have concerns or reports from a child about an injury resulting from daycare negligence. So, reporting to authorities, reporting to the daycare themselves, while it’s important to get the help that’s needed, I think with these types of cases, you also need to document the injuries. Photos, videos, that sort of thing can really help us when we get to the lawsuit stage.

Alyson: Absolutely.

Megan: And depending on the age of the child, oftentimes the unfortunate reality is they may not be able to tell you what actually happened. So being in tune with your child and noticing those injuries, sort of unexplained bruising appearing, all of those things should kind of raise some red flags. Not necessarily every time your child gets a bruise, there was negligence or there’s someone to blame, or certainly not always intentional acts by the daycare facility, you know, asking questions of the daycare facility and taking pictures in the situations where your child can’t tell you what happened.

Alyson: Absolutely, and on that point, are there any other like common signs or symptoms of daycare negligence that a parent should be aware of besides bruising or would that be, you know, the most common thing to take a look at?

Melissa: You know, with, and unfortunately, we have seen this, you know, with children who are victims of some kind of sexual assault or sexual abuse at daycares, just at bath time, examining your child. And if your child does voice a complaint, making sure that you investigate that further. And we don’t want anyone to be scared to send their children to daycare or be alarmist if there’s some kind of injury. But it can happen, it does happen, where children are not properly cared for. And so, obviously, you need to advocate for the child and make sure it’s reported, make sure that they’re getting the medical care that’s needed.

Alyson: Absolutely.

Megan: And I think the signs aren’t always necessarily visible. I think changes in personality can also be an indicator. Maybe your child who otherwise would be a happy-go-lucky child seems more withdrawn, forlorn, isn’t willing to share the things that he or she would normally share with you. All of those things, while, you know, growing up a child does change, can be signs that something more is happening and that something should be investigated in terms of childhood abuse.

Melissa: Right. Disruptions in sleep, again, could be related to sleep regression. It really depends on the child’s age. But nightmares— night terrors certainly can be cause for alarm if the child is otherwise potty trained and now suddenly is having a regression That can also be related, you know potentially to a situation like this. So, I think just Keeping your eyes and ears open and Again asking questions of the facility reporting concerns when necessary all of that can help you avoid making a situation worse for the child.

Alyson: That’s really great information. And it’s good, like you said, to just be aware of and to know and to be in tune with what your child deals with on a daily basis and being aware of everything that can happen. So, really great advice. In these types of cases, what types of evidence is really crucial in establishing liability? And also, to go off of that question, how can parents gather and preserve this type of evidence if they so happen to find something?

Megan: Sure. So as Melissa mentioned before, taking photographs of any visible injury is really imperative. Asking your child, although it may be hard for the child to discuss, asking them to go through in detail what occurred. And then writing it down, you know, when the incident is fresh in your child’s mind, so that you can get the information. Typically, parents aren’t there when these things are happening, so you really do have to rely on your child to give you, you know, a rundown of what occurred, when it occurred, who was involved, how many times this has happened before. All of that is really important to preserve right when it’s fresh. There may be some video footage involved in the daycare. They may have surveillance or CCTVs. So, requesting that immediately from the facility so that it’s not overwritten or otherwise destroyed is important to do. If you do contact the police, getting a copy of the police report and any investigative material that they’re willing to offer you is also important. Contacting DHS, they’re also a great resource in terms of suspected child abuse or neglect, submitting a report through them and any investigative material that they may receive. Any witness information, witness statements, things like that are important to preserve.

Alyson: That’s great. Really great to know. What are the potential types of claims that parents can seek their child, but also themselves?

Melissa: Sure. So just like any type of lawsuit, we would first need to investigate to see if we can meet the legal elements to move forward. But assuming that’s all been done, essentially there are two types of claims, one being non-economic. So, pain and suffering, humiliation, emotional distress, embarrassment, those types of claims where you can’t really put a monetary amount on. For the child, certainly claims like that would be brought. With regard to economic damages being the other type of claim, if a parent, let’s say, has been paying out of pocket for therapy sessions, or if now the child required some kind of medication or hospital stay, those out-of-pocket bills would be part of economic damages. Any expenses covered by the child’s medical insurance could be part of the economic damages. And then parents oftentimes, if the situation warrants the child being pulled out of the daycare, now are left scrambling, either taking off work themselves, hiring temporary help until they can get the child to a new facility, if they so choose those types of expenses or wage loss claims also may be part of the economic damages that we pursue in a lawsuit. Now, parents themselves, if they were to witness in any way the negligent act or supervision by the daycare or the actual assault itself, whether it’s by a staff member at the daycare or even by another student, they themselves could have a claim for emotional distress as well. So, all of these things would have to be investigated and then evaluated by our legal team, but those are generally the types of claims that we pursue when we file lawsuits like this.

Alyson: Okay, great to know. And so, what, I know we’ve talked about this in another episode, but what exactly does that process look like for somebody that wants to pursue a claim?

Melissa: You can go ahead.

Megan: OK, well first, obviously, they’d contact our office. And if they hadn’t already compiled the evidence that we discussed earlier, we would help them do that. I think an important thing for our office and for all attorneys to do is to send a letter immediately to the daycare facility to preserve any evidence that has otherwise not been turned over. Oftentimes, you’ll hear clients waiting months down the line, you know, after an incident has happened, and when we contact the facility, we’ll hear that the video has been overwritten. And that is the best piece of evidence, obviously, in a case like this. So, we would do that on your behalf and on your child’s behalf. We would collect the evidence and determine if we are able to pursue a case. But obviously, children are most vulnerable in society, and they oftentimes can’t advocate for themselves. So, it’s important for the parent to take that next step and contact an attorney’s office if they do feel that their child has been abused or neglected in this sort of a facility.

Melissa: Right. I mean, it’s more than just medical records or therapy records or out-of-pocket expenses. This is, obviously, could have devastating effects on the child and their development, and certainly we’re very sensitive to that. So, we’re here to help guide through not only in the investigation process, but the lawsuit itself, if we get to that point and certainly understand that this is emotional for parents and, you know, potentially really harmful to the family structure itself. So, it’s not necessarily just the child who’s affected and we just try to be a good guide and good resource just to help them through all of this.

Alyson: Absolutely. And what you two mentioned in one of the previous episodes out, when somebody comes to you guys regarding a case, they have an entire team in their corner and that goes for these cases as well. And they’re certainly very lucky have that for sure. So, before we wrap up, is there anything else that you two would like to touch on with this topic? Any other pieces of advice maybe to give to parents or anything legally that parents should know before pursuing a claim? These types of cases?

Melissa: I think just from my perspective two things. One is if you have any doubts, you know, make sure that you speak up. Also going to an attorney that we can also help you with identifying if there are issues that need to be pursued legally in some way. In addition, the statute of limitations for these cases is a little complex in the sense that if the parents themselves have economic claims for missing work or these out-of-pocket expenses we discussed then there’s a two-year statute of limitations from the date of incident. But for children in Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations is much longer. So, it’s actually two years following their 18th birthday. So, their 20th birthday is when the statute of limitations would run. Obviously though, it’s best to talk to an attorney right away and given the nature of the evidence in this type of case, you know, we wouldn’t want that to be spoiled. And so just, you know, if you have any questions, just reach out essentially.

Alyson: Absolutely. Well, thank you both so much for sharing this information. It was very valuable and I’m sure that our listeners got a lot of value and gained a lot of insight from it. So thank you two again so much for joining us and we’ll be back again soon.

Megan: Thank you.

Melissa: Thanks so much.

 

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