In our modern society, baby-proofing and child-proofing have become standard and commonplace. Cautious parents take action to secure or eliminate every small threat or danger their children might face, from cabinet door-locks to bumpers on the edges and corners of fireplaces and furniture.
But in doing so, many have overlooked one of the greatest dangers of all: windows.
In a study released in the journal “Pediatrics” this week, it was found that over 5,000 children in the United States are sent to the emergency room each year due to falls from windows. And the youngest children are those at the greatest risk.
The study was based upon data provided by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, covering nearly two decades, from 1990 to 2008. During those years, 98,415 American children were seen in hospital emergency rooms due to a fall from a window. The study did not include falls from car windows, falls through a closed window, falls from treehouse windows, falls from windows in houses under construction, or falls by a child seated on a windowsill back into the room. Thus, around 5,180 children were injured in such falls each year.
Of the children injured, the average age was 5.1 years old. But 64.8% of the injuries from window falls were in children four years of age and under. The peak ages for falls were 1 and 2 years of age. And taking all ages into account, boys sustained slightly more injuries than girls. In older children, nearly half of emergency-room visits due to window falls were known to be the result of risky behavior, such as climbing out a window or intentionally jumping from a window.
There have been considerable advancements in safety in this area in recent years. Both New York City and Boston have put legislation in place to improve safety standards on windows, and have conducted public awareness campaigns aimed at reducing these accidents. Our Chicago child injury lawyers are discouraged that Illinois cities have not followed suit.
Parents should be aware that window screens simply do not prevent window falls. In fact, for those cases where it was known whether a screen was in place prior to the fall, a screen was in place in over 80 percent of cases.
The only way to prevent window falls is to have an appropriate window guard in place. Especially effective are window locks which, when engaged, prevent the window from opening more than four inches. Many newer windows are equipped with such locks, and our accident attorneys recommend that the parents of small children use these safety devices, particularly on second-story windows. Moreover, we urge our local and state legislatures to enact standards requiring that all newly-installed residential windows contain such locks.
It is also important to ensure that all your child’s caregivers are aware of the risk of window falls, and the need to use safety measures to prevent them. Check with your daycare center and ensure that their windows are equipped with proper locks or guards.
If your child was severely injured in a window fall, talk to an attorney about your options. Depending upon the circumstances, you may be entitled to compensation. For example, if you live in a newly constructed home and the windows were not equipped with proper locks, you may wish to take action against the builder. If your child’s fall occurred at a daycare center, you may have a claim against the center or its workers for negligence. And if your window lock or guard failed, you could have a products liability action against the manufacturer.
For a free consultation with a top-rated child injury lawyer at Passen & Powell, call us at (312) 527-4500.