Texas summers bring with them concerns about children and hot car deaths. If you have lost a child because of a hot car death at daycare, you can file a wrongful death claim against the responsible parties.
Nothing will fill in the space left behind after the loss of a child, but bringing those responsible to justice can help ensure no other child is lost the same way—and it can help families get closure so they can move on with their lives.
The Danger of a Leaving an Infant or Child in a Hot Car
Heatstroke, or hyperthermia, is the most significant danger when leaving children in a car on a hot day. Heatstroke happens when the body overheats because of prolonged exposure to high temperatures. It occurs when the body temperature rises to 104 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.
When body temperature becomes this high, it can damage the brain and other organs. It doesn’t take long for an infant or child’s body temperature to reach 104 degrees or higher when they are left in a car. The temperature outside doesn’t even need to be that hot for the inside temperature of a car to rise. It can go up 20 degrees in just 10 minutes. After an hour, a car’s inside temperature can go up 40 degrees.
Even if it’s just 70 degrees Fahrenheit outside, it doesn’t take long for the inside of the car to become dangerously hot. Leaving the windows partially open does not make much of a difference.
An infant or child’s body temperature goes up more quickly than an adult’s because their bodies absorb heat three to five times faster. In addition, a child’s body has not yet developed the ability to cool itself efficiently. Most children who die of heatstroke in a hot car are under the age of three, although there have been reports of children as old as 14.
How Daycares Can Prevent Hot Car Deaths
Hot car deaths are entirely preventable, and daycare providers should have steps in place to ensure no child dies while under their care. Cars on the premises should be locked, and keys should be kept out of reach of children so they do not go into the car and inadvertently get stuck.
If a child goes missing, all vehicles—including trunks—should be checked immediately. Caregivers should also practice “look before you lock” to ensure that no one leaves behind a child in the backseat of a vehicle. Parents should ask their daycare center what kind of plan it has in place to ensure no children are left inside a car.
Filing a Wrongful Death Claim After a Hot Car Death at Daycare
Under Texas law, the parents of a child who passed away in a hot car death at daycare can bring an action to recover damages for wrongful death. If the death is caused by gross negligence, omission, or a willful act by the party or parties responsible, family members may recover both “actual” and “exemplary” damages. Actual damages refer to compensatory damages, which compensate the plaintiff for their losses. Lawmakers designed exemplary damages to punish the plaintiff for wrongful conduct. Family members have two years from the date of death to file their lawsuit.
In addition to a civil case, a caregiver who leaves a child in a hot car can also be criminally prosecuted.
If your child passes away in a hot car while under at daycare, and you believe it happened because of negligence on the part of the daycare or because they did not have an appropriate plan in place to prevent this from happening, we invite you to contact us. The Button Law Firm can help you win your case in civil court.