Negligent Supervision: When a Caregiver or Employer Fails To Prevent Injury

Negligent Supervision

By definition, negligent supervision occurs when someone who has the legal responsibility to oversee the safety of others fails to adequately do so. The law holds such “supervisors” liable for any injuries sustained by the people they should have adequately protected. In other words, the injured person, or sometimes his or her family, can sue the “supervisor” and possibly the company for which he or she works and obtain compensation.

Negligent supervision occurs in numerous situations. But it most commonly concerns those responsible for children, the elderly or disabled adults, and employers for their employees.

Negligent Supervision of Children

Any number of people, including the following, can be held responsible for negligently supervising the children in their care:

  • Parents
  • Foster parents
  • Babysitters
  • Nannies
  • Daycare providers
  • Teachers
  • Coaches
  • Camp counselors
  • Church and other youth group leaders

Generally, the negligent supervision of children takes two forms. That is, The caregiver fails to sufficiently monitor the child or simply becomes inattentive. While these may sound like the same thing, actually they’re not, and their causes are different.

Failure to sufficiently monitor often comes about because the ratio of caregivers to children is too low. For instance, a teacher has a class of 20 young children for which he or she bears single-handed responsibility. He or she likely will find it difficult, at best, to keep track of precisely what each child is doing. If one of the children injures himself or herself on the playground or while on a field trip, the school or daycare facility, as well as the teacher, likely will be held responsible for the injury.

Inattention, on the other hand, usually comes about because the adult shirks his or her responsibility. For instance, parents often allow their children to drink alcoholic beverages at home, even though the laws of every state prohibit underage drinking. Such negligence happens all too frequently when the teenager of the family throws a party. Even though one or both parents are in the house during the party, they nevertheless turn a blind eye to what their teenager and his or her friends are drinking. Should one of the guests become drunk and cause an accident on the drive home that injures someone, the parents of the teenager whose party it was likely will be held liable for the injury under the legal doctrine of social host liability.

Negligent Supervision of Elderly or Disabled Adults

Unfortunately, nursing home abuse and neglect are all-too-common occurrences in the United States. But these facilities and their employees are not the only ones who fail to properly supervise their residents and patients. Assisted living facilities, special-needs facilities, rehabilitation centers and other facilities that provide long-term care can all be held liable for any injuries their residents sustain. Again, both failure to sufficiently monitor and simple inattention play a part.

Common injuries resulting from this category of negligent supervision include the following:

  • Falls caused by failing to provide a resident with the mobility assistance he or she requires
  • Bedsores and other skin conditions caused by failing to give the resident the proper hygiene care or, in the case of bedridden patients, failing to change their position often enough
  • Malnutrition, dehydration or allergic food reactions caused by failing to properly monitor a resident’s diet and fluid intake
  • Broken bones, bruises, etc. caused by failing to keep the resident safe from physical abuse at the hands of other residents or caregivers themselves
  • Potentially life-threatening injuries caused by failing to prevent a patient suffering from dementia from wandering off the property and into traffic

Negligent Supervision of Employees

An employer has the duty to provide his or her employees with a safe and healthy workplace. He or she can also be held liable for injuries caused by the reckless behavior of his or her employees in the workplace and sometimes outside of it. The injured person may be another employee or a member of the public who, for instance, suffers injuries as the result of a motor vehicle accident caused by the employee driving a company car or truck recklessly.

Other types of employer negligent supervision include the following:

  • Failing to properly train employees in the use of dangerous equipment or chemicals
  • Failing to protect an employee from the bullying or harassment, sexual or otherwise, of another employee
  • Allowing an obviously impaired employee to operate equipment
  • Not preventing workplace violence or the threat thereof
  • Failing to make sure that all employees follow all company policies and rules
  • Failing to perform adequate background checks on prospective employees. This results in, for instance, hiring a registered sex offender to work in a daycare or other child-oriented facility

Burden of Proof of Negligent Supervision

You generally must prove the following in order to prevail in a negligent supervision lawsuit:

  • That the defendant owed the victim a duty of care, i.e., to properly supervise you, your child, your aged parent or whoever suffered the injury
  • That he or she breached that duty, thereby failing to properly supervise
  • That this breach of duty was the proximate cause of the victim’s injuries, meaning the main and direct cause thereof
  • That the defendant should have foreseen and therefore prevented the event or actions that caused the victim’s injuries
  • That the plaintiff suffered economic and noneconomic damages as a result of the injuries

In these types of lawsuits, the defendant is held to the “reasonable person” standard in terms of foreseeability. In other words, any reasonable person could have anticipated and therefore prevented the victim’s injuries had said reasonable person adequately supervised the victim.

Why You Need an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney

Negligence laws vary from state to state. So do the statutes of limitation mandating the time period you have to file your lawsuit after the injuries occur. You consequently need the advice, counsel and representation of an experienced local personal injury attorney who can guide you through the entire legal process.

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