Forty-Nine Children Died in Hot Cars in 2018

February 28th, 2019 by Wapner Newman

child injury

When a child is left unattended in a hot car, tragedies can happen fast. Tragically, a record number of 49 children died from being left in hot cars in 2018. According to the National Safety Council (NSC), since 1998, all but three states – Alaska, New Hampshire and Vermont – have experienced at least one death of a child in a hot car, and 744 children have died nationally since 1998.

Even on cooler days, there is no safe way or time to leave a child in the car, and if your child has been injured or died due to someone else’s negligence, you may be entitled to seek compensation by taking legal action against an at-fault individual or facility. However, your case must be handled properly to ensure you get the settlement you deserve.

The skilled and experienced Philadelphia personal injury attorneys at Wapner, Newman, Wigrizer, Brecher & Miller are committed to giving your hot-car case individual attention. Our personal injury lawyers can provide you with dependable guidance, a listening ear, and strong legal strategies. Through the years, we have helped hundreds of clients secure the compensation they are entitled to, employing our thorough and creative investigative legal solutions.

Please contact Wapner, Newman, Wigrizer, Brecher & Miller today to schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced lawyers to see how we can help.

Why are hot cars so dangerous?

When the body isn’t able to cool itself quickly enough, body temperature can rise to dangerous levels and cause hyperthermia, or heatstroke, the leading cause of non-crash, vehicle-related deaths for children. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration notes that when sitting in a locked car in the sun, “temperatures can climb from 78 degrees to 100 degrees in just three minutes and to 125 degrees in six to eight minutes.”  Children’s bodies heat up three to five times faster than adults’ bodies. At 104 degrees, major organs begin to shut down, and at 107 degrees, the child can die. Symptoms may begin with flushed, dry skin and vomiting and progress to seizures, organ failure and death.

What the law says

There is no federal law covering when and how long you can leave your kids in the car, but Pennsylvania has addressed the problem.

According to the Motor Vehicle Code at 75 Pa. C.S. § 3701.1, “a person driving or in charge of a motor vehicle may not permit a child under six years of age to remain unattended in the vehicle when the motor vehicle is out of the person’s sight and under circumstances which endanger the health, safety or welfare of the child.”  That law applies to “highways and trafficways” of Pennsylvania, as well as parking lots, but does not apply to private driveways.

Another law used to prosecute parents or caregivers who leave children in cars, 18 Pa. C.S. § 4304, states that “a parent, guardian or other person supervising the welfare of a child under 18 years of age, or a person that employs or supervises such a person, commits an offense if he knowingly endangers the welfare of the child by violating a duty of care, protection or support.”  A violation of the law is a first-degree misdemeanor, with a fine of between $1,500 and $10,000 and imprisonment of up to 5 years.

Basically, it is not illegal if someone leaves a child in a car where they can see the car at all times and this does not pose a significant danger to the child.  However, it is illegal in dangerous situations such as where the car is out of sight and the windows are closed on a sunny day.

There has been legislation introduced in Congress that would require automakers to install back-seat sensors in new cars that sound an alarm if the ignition is turned off and a child’s weight remains the same in the seat. However, these bills still haven’t gotten out of committee due to the automobile lobby, which argues that the sensors would only increase an automobile’s cost while doing little to solve the problem, because so few parents of young children buy new cars.

What can be done?

Safe Kids (https://www.safekids.org/) recommends the “ACT” method to prevent tragedy to children:

  • A: Avoid heatstroke-related injury and death by never leaving your child alone in a car, not even for a minute. Make sure to keep your car locked when you’re not in it so kids don’t get in.
  • C: Create reminders by putting something in the back of your car next to your child, such as a briefcase, a purse or a cell phone that is needed at your final destination. This is especially important if you’re not following your normal routine.
  • T: Take action. If you see a child alone in a car, call 911. One call could save a life.

In addition, train children never to play inside a car, as they may lock themselves in by accident.

Legal Action for Negligence

Losing a beloved child is emotionally devastating, and no amount of compensation can lessen your pain. However, if the death was caused unnecessarily through someone else’s negligence, carelessness, or wrongdoing, such as the case where a child was forgotten and left strapped inside a pre-school van, you may be entitled to seek damages in a lawsuit that will hold the responsible party accountable.

The seasoned and compassionate Pennsylvania personal attorneys at Wapner, Newman, Wigrizer, Brecher & Miller offer a free consultation to examine the facts of any situation that harmed your child.  Our unique legal approach helps ensure that no stone is left unturned as we investigate and document every detail relating to your claim and do everything possible to get you the settlement you deserve.

Contact us online or call our offices today for your free consultation.