Some of my best memories as a kid are going to summer camp in Northbrook and later on in Glenview. No school, no homework, lots of dodge ball and floor hockey. Lots of swimming. Trips to Great America and the Indiana Dunes. Life didn’t seem like it could get much better than that.
While a lot has changed for kids today, summer camp is still a big draw no matter where you live. It’s great for parents because it gets the kids out of the house and it’s great for the kids because it gives them something to do. Win-win for everyone, right?
Usually that’s the case, but not always. When I was a kid at overnight camp, I got a terrible case of pneumonia and was ignored by the camp staff until my temperature hit 105 degrees. I was then rushed to the hospital and told I was close to dying. Other kids broke their legs playing basketball, soccer and other sports. One kid got hit in the face with a golf club. Another went water skiing for the first time and crashed in to a dock, breaking his ribs.
I imagine that camps today are somewhat more risk adverse than when I was a kid 30 years ago. But accidents do still happen. The most common question I get from a parent whose child is hurt at camp is “Do I have a case?” The answer depends on one big thing.
The answer is can you prove that the camp was negligent? The kid at my camp that got hit with a golf club was goofing off when he got hit. The kid hurt on the water skis told everyone that he had done it many times before. The boys that broke their legs were just playing a game and stuff happens in a game.
It’s no different than if you are in a car accident or hurt in a store. Just because you get hurt on someone’s property does not mean that they are responsible and have to pay for your medical bills and pain and suffering. You have to show somehow that they were at fault.
So if you are taken to the Indiana Dunes and the camp puts you on an ATV that crashes, you might have a case. If the counselor is supposed to be watching kids swim, but walks away from his post to flirt with girls, if your child drowns that would be the makings of a lawsuit. If a child slips on a wet floor from a roof that has been leaking for months, it could be a claim.
But no matter what the injury is, you need to prove negligence. My advice to anyone who wants to know if they have a claim is to call us and we’ll give a no cost, confidential consultation. If we think you don’t have a case, we’ll tell you why. If you do have one, we’ll recommend a personal injury lawyer that is independent of our office, experienced and is the right fit for you.
Written by Michael Helfand