Playgrounds throughout the UK offer children an excellent way to enjoy outdoor space, entertainment and exploration activities. To maintain this enjoyment, it is essential that your child is provided with a safe and reliable environment in which to play.
Owners of playgrounds are legally obliged to maintain the safety of equipment and the surrounding location. If you or your child has been injured due to a playground accident, you may be eligible to make a claim for compensation.
Personal injury claims can be made on a no win no fee basis. This means there are no upfront costs, and you only pay your solicitor if they successfully win your compensation claim.
Can I make a playground accident claim?
Children are prone to accidents, and some playground injuries are unavoidable. However, there are various laws in place to ensure that children and other visitors are safe when using public playgrounds and other play areas, including The Occupiers’ Liability Act 1957.
These laws place a duty of care on park owners and operators, such as the local council, to take all reasonable measures to protect the health and safety of anyone who enters the premises. If your child suffered an injury at the park, you could make a playground accident claim if you can show that:
- The defendant had a duty of care towards your child
- They breached that duty through a negligent act that caused an accident
- Your child suffered an injury or illness as a result
Even if the defendant admits liability for your child’s injury, you should try to collect as much evidence as possible to support your case. That is because their insurer will want clear proof of what happened, and if your case goes to trial, the judge will evaluate the available evidence to assign liability.
Some of the most common playground accident claims that we deal with are based on the following situations:
- The playground does not meet the legal standards required for design or layout.
- The equipment in the playground is faulty or damaged.
- The play equipment has not been installed correctly.
- The equipment in the playground does not have the recommended precautionary measures.
- The grounds of the playground have not been regularly inspected for safety issues.
- The equipment has aged or is poorly maintained, which has made it unsafe.
- The equipment is not appropriate for the age group that the playground is intended for.
- Safety signage is not adequately in place.
The injury lawyers we work with are experienced in guiding clients through personal injury claims related to playground accidents of all types. They recognise how traumatic cases involving children are and can assure you that they will process your case with the utmost empathy, professionalism and reliability at all times.
What should I do if my child is injured in a playground accident?
If you or your child is injured when using a public playground, it is important to address any medical needs and receive treatment as quickly as possible. There are also some steps you can take in the immediate aftermath of the accident that can help if you later decide to make a personal injury claim.
Reporting the accident to the local authority or the playground owner should be a top priority. This ensures that there is an official record of the incident and should also help to prevent further accidents from occurring to other children.
To support a playground accident claim, you should try to do the following things:
- Seek immediate medical care so that any injuries are treated and recorded. Your solicitor will later request a copy of the medical records from the A&E or your GP to prove the extent of the injuries suffered.
- Report the accident to the local authorities or the park operator. You are entitled to ask for a copy of the accident report to prove its date, time and location.
- Take photographs or a video recording of what caused the playground accident. If the playground was covered by security cameras, you could ask for the CCTV footage.
- Take photos of any visible injuries and damage to property.
- Keep copies of any medical reports, prescriptions or treatments needed.
- Ask for the names and contact details of any witnesses to the accident. If the other side denies liability, their statement could help your case.
- If the injury is serious or if the playground defect could put others in immediate danger, report the incident to the local police, who will be able to take quick measures to close the playground whilst investigations and repairs are completed.
- Keep notes of any costs and financial losses you incurred because of the playground accident.
Once your claim is ready, your solicitor will contact the defendant and inform them of your intentions to take legal action. If they admit liability, you can begin to negotiate a settlement. Otherwise, you may have to issue court proceedings.
In child injury claims, you must go through an Infant Approval Hearing before a judge even if you settle out of court. They will evaluate the available evidence and decide if the child received fair compensation for their injuries.
To get a better understanding of whether you can claim, continue reading our online guide or call 0800 678 1410 if you would like a free consultation with a legal adviser.
What are the most common playground accidents?
Playgrounds are a place of excitement for children, where they can have fun and make new friends. However, lack of proper supervision, equipment defects and poorly designed play areas can expose children to severe accidents and injuries.
Any number of factors can lead to a playground injury, but the most common playground accidents are due to the following:
- Lack of supervision
Many playground accidents happen at nurseries and schools where children should be under the supervision of a teacher or another adult. The level of care required depends on several factors, including the child’s age and the risks associated with a particular playground activity. If your child suffered an injury due to a lack of adequate supervision, you might be able to make a playground accident claim.
- Faulty equipment
Manufacturing defects and old or broken playground equipment can expose children to hazards such as nails, metal and sharp edges, loosened seating and handles, or missing footholds and steps on climbing equipment. Besides cuts and lacerations, faulty equipment may also lead to falls, entrapment and severe crush injuries.
- Slips, trips and falls
Wet surfaces, tree roots, uneven flooring and other hazards may cause a slip or trip injury. Besides minor bruising and abrasions, a fall may lead to fractures, dislocation and even traumatic brain injuries. Lack of adequate safety signage or specification of what age group the playground equipment is suitable for can also result in children falling from a height with devastating consequences.
- Poor maintenance
Many playground areas and equipment are several years or even decades old. Over the years, metal components can rust, and screws and bolts may come loose. Ropes become frail, and the wood may rot and deteriorate, leading to unsafe conditions for children using the equipment.
Playgrounds should also be kept clean and free of hazards such as broken bottles, used syringes and other unsanitary items that could cause injury to a child. If the playground owner failed to keep the area safe and well-maintained, you might have a valid playground accident claim.
- Unsafe playground area
Every playground should have soft flooring installed around slides, swings and other play equipment to minimise the risk of severe injuries in the event of a fall. If the playground equipment is not age-appropriate, bigger steps and wider openings may be dangerous for younger kids. Any furniture, gates and fencing should also be adequately maintained and safe for children.
- Poorly installed equipment
All playground equipment must be installed by a competent person in accordance with the EN1176 standards and according to professional design and layout advice. A suitably trained professional will ensure that the equipment is age-appropriate and there is sufficient space between the various pieces of equipment. In the event of a fall, it is essential to ensure that the design and layout of the playground will not cause a child to land on another piece of equipment.
This list is not exhaustive, and many other accidents could lead to a playground injury claim. If you feel you might be entitled to compensation for your child’s injury, enter your details into our online claim form or call 0800 678 1410 to speak to a legal adviser.
What are the most common playground injuries?
Playgrounds are a common source of injuries to children, most of which are minor and a result of typical play activities. Sometimes, however, faulty equipment and negligence on the part of the school, local council or park owner can lead to more severe injuries.
According to RoSPA, approximately 40,000 children go to the hospital each year due to playground accidents. Besides minor bumps, bruises and cuts, the most common injuries that may lead to a playground accident claim include:
Unsafe or broken playground equipment such as rusty metals, exposed screws, sharp edges or protruding nails can cause severe lacerations to a child. While you could treat a small cut at home, deep lacerations may require stitches and cause permanent scars and disfigurement. A severe wound can also expose the child to the risk of developing complications such as infections or tetanus.
- Broken bones
Broken bones are one of the most common playground injuries that require hospitalisation. Fractures can be very painful and cause other symptoms like swelling, bruising and deformity. The most common type of fracture treatment is wearing a cast or plaster, but severe injuries may require surgery and cause long-term complications. An adequately maintained playground with soft ground materials can help prevent the most serious injuries.
Dislocations are joint injuries that may occur if a child falls or takes a hit to the body. The most common symptoms include pain, swelling, deformity, and difficulty using the joint. A healthcare provider may be able to put the bones back into their proper position manually, but some injuries may require surgery and an extensive recovery period.
- Sprains and strains
A slip, trip or fall due to slippery or dangerous surfaces at the playground can cause a child to suffer a torn muscle or ligament damage. The body areas more vulnerable to sprains include the knees, ankles and wrists, which may cause pain, swelling and inflammation. Muscle strains often occur in the back or leg and cause pain, weakness, cramping and inflammation. Based on severity, a sprain or strain may take up to several months to get back to normal.
- Head and brain injuries
Dangerous or faulty equipment could cause a child to fall and hit their head on playground equipment or the ground surface. Severe head injuries may result in concussions, skull fractures, subarachnoid haemorrhages and severe neurological disturbances. A traumatic brain injury can have permanent effects, such as causing epilepsy and problems with memory and concentration. Severe injuries can even be life-threatening.
- Strangulation and entrapment
Playing equipment such as jump ropes, swings, and other rope structures can lead to strangulation without proper adult supervision. Faulty playground designs and manufacturing defects can result in a severe entrapment injury if the child gets stuck, crushed or pinched between structures.
Who can be held responsible for accidents in playgrounds?
Playground accidents are common and can happen anywhere at schools, parks or nurseries, both indoors and outdoors. They are often due to the child’s unsafe behaviour, in which case you could potentially make a claim for negligent supervision if they were under the care of another person.
Other times, defective or unsafe premises or equipment may lead to unexpected and devastating injuries, which could make the playground owner liable for compensation.
Owners and managers of public playgrounds in the UK have a duty of care to maintain the safety of equipment and provide a secure environment in which children can play. To maintain lawful management of the playground, owners must make regular maintenance checks and address any potential risks immediately.
If the playground is deemed unsafe, the manager or owner is legally obliged to inhibit use until such problems are fixed and made safe for use.
If the public playground that you or your child was injured on is not observant of legal requirements, the owner is responsible for any injuries or losses to you. This means that you may be eligible to make a claim for personal injury compensation against them.
Based on the circumstances of your child’s injury, your playground accident claim could be against:
According to the Education Act 2002, nurseries and schools must protect the health and safety of children while on the premises. To make a negligence claim against your child’s school, you must show that:
- The person supervising your child had a duty of care towards them
- They failed to provide adequate care and supervision
- Your child suffered a playground injury as a result
The local council
Public parks and playgrounds are usually owned by the local council, which has a legal duty to make sure that these areas are safe for children to play in. They must assess the risks associated with the play equipment and the entire premises and take adequate measures to minimise them.
The local authorities must ensure that the design and layout of the playground is safe and that the correct and appropriate signs are up. All equipment must be of good quality and installed according to strict safety requirements.
Moreover, the local council must regularly inspect the play park and carry out necessary repairs within a reasonable period. Failing to do so would be considered negligent and would likely entitle you to make an accident claim against the council.
A private owner
According to the Occupiers’ Liability Act 1957, the owner or administrator of a playground owes a duty of care to all visitors. They must take all reasonable measures to keep all users safe on the premises and be prepared for children to be less careful than adults.
To make an occupier’s liability claim against the owner, you must show that:
- They were in charge of the property and could expect children to play there
- They did not exercise reasonable care and allowed dangerous conditions on the playground
- Their negligence caused your child to suffer an injury
- The child was injured in a foreseeable way
Poor design, manufacturing defects or failure to provide user or maintenance instructions could all lead to severe playground accidents. Under the Consumer Protection Act 1987, you can bring a playground injury claim against a manufacturer if you can show that:
- The playground equipment was defective
- The defective equipment caused an injury to your child
- The manufacturer was responsible for the product safety
Unlike a negligence claim, in a product liability claim, you do not have to prove a duty of care and breach of duty.
Depending on the circumstances, another party may be liable for your child’s playground accident. For example:
- A negligent dog owner could be liable if your child suffered a dog bite injury within a playground. Dog attacks on children can be very distressing. Besides physical harm, your child may also suffer severe psychological trauma, which may have long-term effects on their life.
- The parents of another child who caused an injury to your child.
After assessing the details of your playground accident, your solicitor will be able to identify the liable party for your child’s injuries. You do not have to worry about proving a duty of care, as your solicitor will take care of all the legal aspects of your claim.
How long do I have to make a playground injury claim?
Usually, the time limit to bring a personal injury claim is three years after an accident or becoming aware of an injury. After the three years have expired, the court will no longer accept a case, even if it has merit.
However, when the victim is a child, the rules for claiming are different. A parent, legal guardian or another adult could make a playground accident claim on behalf of a child at any point before the child turns 18.
If you want to pursue compensation on behalf of a child, you must apply to be their litigation friend by filling in a certificate of suitability. The court will check that you are fit for the role by making sure your interests do not conflict with the child’s and that you can act fairly and competently.
If the litigation friend process is not used before the child turns 18, they will have another three years to make a claim themselves. This gives them until their 21st birthday to make their claim.
In the tragic event that a child suffered a fatal injury due to a playground accident, you could make a claim within three years after the date of death, or an autopsy revealed the cause of death.
If your child suffered a playground injury while on holiday abroad, you could still be eligible to claim compensation for their accident. However, depending on the circumstances, the time limit to start legal proceedings may vary significantly in various countries.
Regardless of time limits, it is always advisable to contact a professional solicitor as soon as possible. This will make it easier to clarify the events, speak to witnesses, and gather crucial evidence to build a strong playground injury claim. This can significantly improve your chances of making a successful compensation claim.
How much compensation can I claim for a playground accident?
Playground accidents can result in many different injuries such as cuts, bruises, broken bones and even severe brain injuries. They could also affect a child emotionally and psychologically and may interfere with their development and daily activities.
If your child suffered a significant injury, you might also need to take time off work to take care of them and maybe even hire a home tutor. Your solicitor will look in detail at all the effects the accident had on your child and family to calculate fair compensation. A playground injury claim will usually cover:
Pain, suffering and loss of amenity, also known as general damages, which is compensation to cover:
- Physical pain and suffering
- Emotional distress and psychological trauma
- Physical disability and impaired development
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Loss of social interactions and inability to pursue a hobby
- Loss of enjoyment of life
Related financial losses and expenses, known as special damages, which can cover:
- Private medical treatment and hospitalisation
- Travel expenses
- Costs of care and assistance
- Home tutors
- Medical equipment such as mobility aids or prostheses
- Any modifications to your home or vehicle
- Cost of rehabilitation and psychological support
- Lost earnings, if you took time off work to take care of your child
According to the general guidelines published by the Judicial College, you could receive the following compensation awards for a playground accident:
- £1,890 to £6,870 for minor head injuries such as bumps and lacerations
- £14,380 to £40,410 for moderate brain injuries such as concussions with some long-term effects
- Up to £3,950 for soft tissue injuries to the chest or minor rib fractures with complete recovery within several weeks
- £21,100 to £108,400 for leg injuries leading to permanent mobility issues and chronic pain
- £10,890 to £16,380 for a fractured humerus or rotator cuff tear that needs surgery
- £2,810 to £3,790 for a minor wrist injury with full recovery within a year
- £10,380 to £31,350 for severe hand injuries causing amputation of one or more fingers
- Up to £2,300 for a minor neck injury with full recovery within three months
- £59,120 to £70,490 for severe back injuries causing loss of sensation or mobility
- £1,760 – £3,150 for loss or damage to the child’s front teeth
These figures refer to the compensation typically awarded for general damages for these specific injuries. If your playground accident claim is successful, your final settlement will also include financial damages and could amount to substantial sums.
If required, your solicitor can help you set up a personal injury trust so that the compensation award won’t affect your child’s eligibility for state benefits in the future.
Will I be offered a no win no fee service?
If your child suffered an injury, making a playground accident claim might not be at the forefront of your mind. However, a successful claim can help your child benefit from the best medical treatments available and move on with their life.
If you have a valid claim for compensation, you do not have to worry about the costs of claiming and seeking legal advice. If your case has merit, your solicitor will offer you a no win no fee service, so you can claim without taking any financial risks.
The no win no fee claims process is pretty straightforward:
- At the beginning of your claim, you will sign a conditional fee agreement, which states that you don’t need to pay any upfront fees to your solicitor, and you do not have to pay them anything if your case fails.
- Your solicitor will help you collate evidence, contact the defendant and handle all the legal aspects of your playground injury claim so you can focus on your child and their recovery.
- Before starting legal proceedings, your solicitor will also take out an After the Event (ATE) insurance policy on your behalf. The ATE insurance is a legal expenses insurance that covers all the legal expenses incurred during claiming by you and the defendant in the event you lose.
- Without the ATE insurance, you would be liable to pay your opponent’s solicitor fees, court and counsel fees, the cost of police and medical reports and other disbursements. You only pay the insurance premium if you win compensation; otherwise, the policy is self-insuring.
If you win compensation for your child’s playground accident, the defendant will cover most of your legal costs. The only expenses that will be deducted from your settlement are:
- The cost of the ATE insurance premium
- A success fee that is paid to your solicitor for the work they did to win your claim. The success fee is capped at a maximum of 25% of your compensation for general damages and past financial losses.
Your solicitor will explain the no win no fee service and the costs involved before taking on your case. So everything is upfront and transparent, and you will never be left with any unexpected or hidden fees.