Frequently Asked Questions About Child Injury Law

Parents of children who have been seriously hurt because of negligence or abuse need to know their legal rights. Here are the answers to the most commonly asked questions about child injuries.
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  • What arethe clinicalindicators or evidencethat should promptparents or health care providers to suspectyoung childrenmay be victims of abuse?

    1) When adults give a history of injury that changes over time or with different inverviews during the investigation or treatment of the child. The story keeps changing.

    2) When an adult blames another child for the injury and it is not consistent with the level of development for either child. Blaming another child for severe injuries is common.

    3) The history of how the injury occurred is not consistent with the type or severity of the injury. Frequently the abuser will give themselves away with partial truths, such as "I shook the baby when he wouldn't wake up".

    4) When the adult delays seeking treatment for the injured child. The abuser hopes the child's condition will improve without seeking help. Or they hide the incident until someone else finds the child injured.   

    5) Other injuries are present that are unexplained or do not match the mechanism of injury. Bruises and injuries on different areas of the body that are not prominent or have normal pattern of injury distribution commonly associated with child's play. For example, scraped knees is common for children. But bruises on the belly or upper back are not commonly associated with play activity.   

    6) When injuries that the child has do not match the level of development of the child (for example, bruises on a two-month old infant's face, back or buttocks from a "fall")  

  • Whatblood test may be used to determine when brain injury occurred in a babyduring the birthing experience?

    Umbilical cord blood gas is one test that may offer information about lack of oxygen to a baby's brain. When a baby experiences lack of oxygen for a prolonged period of time, metabolic acidosis may result. Lack of oxygen and severe metabolic acidosis is a neonatal emergency and may permanently damage a baby's brain. Umbilical cord blood gas results, in many circumstances, can offer important information about how long a baby went with low or no oxygen during the birth experience.  

  • What may a parent do to prevent child abuse and abusive head trauma from occurring in the home?

    It is normal for parents and child care givers to feel stressed and overwhelmed while raising children. So It is important for a parent or child care givers to recognize the symptoms of stress before the symptoms reach a high level. When a parent or child care giver loses their temper, child abuse may result. Make a personal plan to prevent child abuse and abusive head trauma in your home. Your prevention plan can include checking to make sure the baby or child is comfortable, fed and has a dry diaper. If the baby or child is crying, make sure there is no fever or illness that requires a healthcare provider's attention. Once you are sure the baby or child is not ill and has all their basic needs met, then place the baby in a safe place, like a crib.
    It is okay to take a break if you are feeling stressed. It is important for one to have a goal that includes not losing one's temper and not to act out in ways that may harm a child. A parent or child care provider may begin to feel tense or anxious while around the children. Child abuse  prevention includes making a plan to manage these feelings as soon as they start. It only takes a few seconds of loss of control to cause great harm to a baby or child. When you make a plan to prevent child abuse, share the plan with family, friends and other child care givers. Talk to people that will be around your children, so they know about the plan to prevent child abuse. And while you are taking a break, call a friend or listen to music. Don't hold the baby if you are feeling angry or overly-stressed.

    REMEMBER: It is okay for babies to cry, it is normal. The amount of crying a baby does may be expected to increase around the age of six weeks old. Make a plan to help you and others to manage stress during this time. Share the child abuse prevention plan with your babysitter.

  • How long does traumatic brain injury (TBI) affect children?

    While there is no exact time period that marks when a child is completely healed or, at least, unaffected by traumatic brain injury (TBI), a new study suggests that the injury can affect some children for years.  Whether suffering from a mild blow to the head or a concussion, children can be affected by the condition over 2 years after the time of injury.  Though some traumatic brain injuries are permanent, lasting not 2 years, but a lifetime, or even resulting in death, those that seem to be more moderate have recently been found to affect the brain activity of victims for longer than expected.

    According to the Centers for Disease Control, TBI is the most common cause of fatality and disabilty in children and teenagers.  When brain injuries do not result in fatality or permanent disability, they still can linger for up to 24 months or more, according to a new study released from researchers at UCLA.  After analyzing 28 articles on traumatic brain injury between 1988 and 2007, lead author of the journal Neuropsychology and post-doctoral fellow at UCLA Talin Babikian found that child and adolescent victims of TBI fall further behind their peers over time than previously expected by physicians. 

    Children in the study were sorted by their levels on the Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS), which measures a brain injury sufferer's eye/pupil response, verbal communication, and motor response to determine the serverity of the injury.  Including children from all three levels of the scale--mild, moderate, or severe--Babikian found that moderate and severe sufferers of TBI experienced similar impairment after a time period of 24 months after injury.  While those with moderate injuries recovered somewhat in terms of attention and intellectual functioning, the neurocognictive affects of TBI persisted throughout the two years experienced after injury.  The children who did suffer from severe traumatic brain injury displayed significant IQ, attention, verbal memory, and processing speed impairment.  Even children with mild TBI experienced problems in cognitive development, although they tended to heal more over time than the other children.

    Important to the study is the fact that the age of a child at the time of injury affects how the child will heal.  Since younger children require more development than older children, a younger child may experience the same injury as an older one but endure longer and more difficult recovery processes. 

    While the results of the UCLA study are discouraging, even heartbreaking, hope exists for some child victims of traumatic brain injury to heal and develop normally.  As an experienced pediatric TBI lawyer, Chris Keane helps families recover the compensation they need for the medical treatment of their child and ensures that each child is connected with the right physician and proper care.  If you have questions regarding TBI or child injuries in general, feel free to contact the Keane Law Firm.  We will consult with you for free and ensure that you receive the resources you require. 1-888-592-KIDS.

    Link:  "Traumatic Brain Injury Haunts Children For Years" article

  • Is it necessary to prove that someone intentionally injured a baby in a shaken baby syndrome case?

    No.  The Keane Law Firm handles shaken baby syndrome cases that result in civil lawsuits, not just criminal cases.  Civil lawsuits related to abusive head trauma (shaken baby syndrome) focus on instances of negligence rather than crimes, meaning that it is not necessary to prove that someone "intended" to injure the baby.  What is at question in a civil lawsuit for shaken baby syndrome, rather, is whether a person or employee failed to care properly for a baby or child.  While the person charged for shaking a baby may successfully avoid criminal conviction, that person can still be held liable for your child's injuries in a civil case of shaken baby syndrome.  If the jury finds that the person in questions failed to use reasonable care when handling your baby, the person may be responsible for the resulting injuries.

    The Keane Law Firm can represent a baby who has been shaken in civil court even if the criminal defendant is found "not guilty" or if the case is not brought to trial.  If you believe that your baby or a baby you know may be suffering from shaken baby syndrome, contact our firm with your most pressing and concerning questions.  We will answer your questions for free with compassion and professionalism and provide you with the resources you need to determine whether you should pursue a civil case.  1-888-592-KIDS (1-888-592-5437).

    For more information regarding the condition, visit Chris Keane's website devoted entirely to the subject:  Shaken Baby Syndrome Blog.

  • Is it required to prove "beyond a reasonable doubt" who shook the baby in a shaken baby syndrome case?

    No.  In civil cases, it is not required to prove "beyond a reasonable doubt" who shook the child, as long as there is a "preponderance of the evidence" that the person being sued shook the child, meaning that the person in question "more likely than not" caused the baby's injury.  Although a district attorney or prosecutor may decide not to proceed with prosecuting someone if there is no proof "beyond a reasonable doubt" that the person shook a baby, the Keane Law Firm has experience handling civil cases of shaken baby syndrome in which there is limited proof. 

    Often, prosecutors and district attorneys will not proceed due to an inability to prove when exactly the child's injury occurred, and they are limited to calling only the physician, coroner or medical examiner who saw the child to the witness stand when attempting to prove the timing of the injury.  The Keane Law Firm, however, does not face the same limitations:  we are able to hire top physicians from all over the country to prove the time at which a baby was injured.

    If you believe that your baby or a baby you know may be suffering from shaken baby syndrome, you can contact our firm for compassionate and professional answers to your questions, helpful resources and information, and an evaluation of your unique situation. 

    Contact shaken baby syndrome attorney Chris Keane via the web or call 1-888-592-KIDS.

    Relevant Links: 
    Shaken Baby Syndrome Blog

  • What is the legal definition of child abuse?

    Here is one example of a legal definition of child abuse (from the State of California):

    Definitions of Child Abuse and Neglect

    To better understand this issue and to view it across States, see the Definitions of Child Abuse and Neglect: Summary of State Laws (PDF - 442 KB) publication.

    Physical Abuse
    Citation: Penal Code §§ 11165.6; 11165.3

    Child abuse or neglect includes

           Physical injury inflicted by other than accidental means upon a child by another person

           Willful harming or injury of the child or the endangering of the person or health of the child

           Unlawful corporal punishment or injury

    Willful harming or injuring of a child or the endangering of the person or health of a child means a situation in which any person willfully causes or permits any child to suffer, or inflicts thereon, unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering, or having the care or custody of any child, willfully causes or permits the person or health of the child to be placed in a situation in which his or her person or health is endangered.

  • What is the legal definition of child neglect?

    One example of a legal definition of child neglect comes from the State of California:  

    Citation: Penal Code § 11165.2
    Neglect means the negligent treatment or the maltreatment of a child by a person responsible for the child's welfare under circumstances indicating harm or threatened harm to the child's health or welfare. The term includes both acts and omissions on the part of the responsible person.

    Severe neglect means the negligent failure of a person having the care or custody of a child to protect the child from severe malnutrition or medically diagnosed nonorganic failure to thrive. Severe neglect also means those situations of neglect where any person having the care or custody of a child willfully causes or permits the person or health of the child to be placed in a situation such that his or her person or health is endangered, including the intentional failure to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter, or medical care.

    General neglect means the negligent failure of a person having the care or custody of a child to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter, medical care, or supervision where no physical injury to the child has occurred.

  • What type of professional occupations are regarded as "mandated reporters" for suspected child abuse or child neglect?

    Professionals Required to Report (State of California)
    Citation: Penal Code §§ 11166; 11165.7
    Mandated reporters include any of the following:

           Teachers, teacher's assistants, administrative officers, certificated pupil personnel employees of any public or private school

           Administrators and employees of public or private day camps, youth centers, youth recreation programs, or youth organizations

           Employees of child care institutions, including, but not limited to, foster parents, group home personnel, and personnel of residential care facilities

           Social workers, probation officers, or parole officers

           Any person who is an administrator or a counselor in a child abuse prevention program in any public or private school

           District attorney investigators, peace officers, firefighters, except for volunteer firefighters

           Physicians, surgeons, psychiatrists, psychologists, dentists, licensed nurses, dental hygienists, optometrists, marriage counselors, family and child counselors, clinical social workers

           Emergency medical technicians I or II or paramedics

           State or county public health employees

           Coroners or medical examiners

           Commercial film and photographic print processors

           Child visitation monitors

           Animal control officers or humane society officers

           Clergy members, which includes priests, ministers, rabbis, religious practitioners, or similar functionary of a church, temple, or recognized denomination or organization

           Any custodian of records of a clergy member

           Employees of any police department, county sheriff's department, county probation department, or county welfare department

    Employees or volunteers of Court Appointed Special Advocate programs

  • What are the risk factors for child abuse?

    There are many risk factors that contribute to child abuse. All children are at risk for abusive experiences, but the risk goes up when one or more of the following characteristics are present:

    Community/society: high unemployment, poverty, criminal activity and lack of social services

    Family: unwanted or unplanned pregnancy, criminal history, single parent, substance abuse, mental health problems, emotional immaturity, poor coping, low self-esteem, lack of parenting skills, and personal history of child maltreatment

    Child: disabled child, prematurity, disagreeable personality features