Public parks are supposed to be safe places for people to play and enjoy the outdoors. Unfortunately, public parks can also be dangerous sites for injuries, assaults and kidnapping.
Last year, an 18-year-old man allegedly attacked Yik Oi Huang, then 88 years old, as she exercised at Visitation Valley Playground. On January 2, the woman died from her injuries, which included face and skull fractures and brain injury.
These types of assaults don’t happen often, but injuries in public parks are more common that you think. Typical injuries include:
• Playground accident injuries
• Injuries from falling tree branches
• Accidents between hikers and mountain bikers
• Injuries that result from bullying
Federal, state and local governments have a responsibility to keep public parks safe for visitors. However, they can’t be held responsible for every root that causes a hiker to trip and fall.
Under California Government Code, public entities (East Bay Regional Parks for example) are not responsible for injuries caused by the condition of a paved trail, unpaved road, or trail on public land used for recreational purposes. This law extends to private landowners who deed public easements to municipalities.
However, if the landowner willfully or maliciously fails to guard or warn against a dangerous condition, they could be held liable. For example, if the park system knew of mountain lion sightings at a public park, but failed to warn visitors, they could be held responsible for an attack.
In Huang’s case, if Visitation Valley Park had streetlights that weren’t working, and the city knew about the problem but didn’t repair the lights, the darkness could have contributed to the dangerous condition.
Injuries to children caused by improperly maintained playgrounds also happen too often. In this case, any number of people, businesses or public entities could be responsible.
Cities, counties and public school districts own many public playgrounds. If they fail to properly maintain the playground or its equipment, they could be subject to a lawsuit. Playground equipment manufacturers come into “play” if the equipment is defective, and the parents of a bully may take some blame if their child assaults another child.
Public Park Safety Tips
To help keep you and your family safe when visiting a public park, follow these tips:
Watch for signs. Check park entrances for cautions and instructions. Park officials may post information about animal sightings, trail hazards or post appropriate ages for particular equipment.
Report hazards and suspicious activity. If you notice a hazard or problem, report to the local park system. Even if you notice something or someone that doesn’t seem right, let them know.
Watch your children. Keep your eyes on your children, especially younger kids. Watch for unsafe conditions, like a broken swing set. Also, keep kids in sight at all times to prevent abductions.
When serious injuries occur in public parks, determining fault gets complicated. If something happens to you or a family member, call our office for a free consultation.
Photo courtesy of Flickr