Who’s Responsible if a Child is Injured at a Bus Stop?

Scenarios

A child leaves a family child care home alone and walks two blocks to a school bus stop. While waiting for the bus to come, she falls and injures herself.

A child gets off a school bus and starts walking alone to a family child care home. On the way she is hit by a car and is injured.

Who is responsible in these two scenarios: the provider, the bus company, the parents, or the driver of the car?

The first responsibility of a family child care provider is to keep the children in her program safe.

Here are the steps a provider should follow to protect the child and her program.

1)     Check with your child care licensor to make sure that allowing the child to walk either to or from a bus stop is not in violation of child neglect laws. Get your licensor’s approval (or at least lack of objection) in writing.

2)     Get parents to sign a permission form that is specific about what will happen. For example, it might say, “We give permission for our child Zachery to walk alone from family child care provider’s home at 3pm each day to the school bus stop on the corner of Laurel and Portland Avenue.” If the parent is married, get both parents to sign it.

3)     Make sure you have business liability insurance that will defend you if the parent tries to sue you after their child is injured.

4)     Even if you have taken care of steps one-three, don’t allow the child to walk alone if doing so makes you uneasy. If you are not comfortable with the arrangement, don’t agree to it.

So, who is responsible?

Assuming you have permission from your licensor and the parents, the parents, not you, are responsible if a child is injured.

The only situations where you might be held liable is if you allowed the child to walk to the bus stop in a snowstorm or leave your home without the proper clothing in the middle of winter.

If the car hits the child, it’s likely the driver is responsible.

You want business liability insurance to defend you in case the child is injured and the parent decides to sue you. Defending yourself against a lawsuit is costly, even if you bear no responsibility for the accident.

Use your common sense, follow these steps, and you will have done everything you can to protect the child and your program.


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Tom Copeland

I've been the nation's leading trainer, author, and advocate on the business of family child care since 1981. I'm a licensed attorney and have presented hundreds of business workshops for family child care providers across the country. I answer thousands of calls and emails each year to help providers, tax professionals and trainers understand complex business and tax issues. Call me at 651-280-5991. Email me at tomcopeland@live.com. Visit me on Facebook. From 1981 to 2009 I worked at Resources for Child Caring in Minnesota (now called Think Small), where I was director of Redleaf National Institute for 15 years. I've written nine books on the business of family child care published by Redleaf Press, a division of Resources for Child Caring. I was on the board of directors of First Children's Finance, a non-profit organization providing low interest loans and consulting and technical assistance to help family child care providers suceed as a business. They operate in Minnesota, Iowa, Michigan, North and South Dakota, Kansas, Missouri, and Texas. Here are some YouTube videos of me talking about my work with this organization and the business of family child care. I graduated from Macalester College (BA) in 1972 and from William Mitchell College of Law (JD) in 1980. I live in St. Paul, Minnesota with my wife Diane and two cats, Duke and Ella.