Stopping Hot Car Deaths of Children
Hot car deaths of children are unimaginable nightmares for families who experience them. Sadly, too many families do. An average of 39 children die every year in hot car deaths in the U.S., according to tracking by a meteorologist at San Jose State University, Jan Null. Since 1998, 849 children have lost their lives. Among those, 126 were in Texas. Our state has the unfortunate distinction of leading the country in these tragic events, followed by Florida and California. Perhaps not surprisingly, the overwhelming majority of hot car deaths in the country occur between Memorial Day and Labor Day, when temperatures are at their highest.
Losing a child is the most difficult and devastating event a parent can endure. Losing a child in a preventable hot car death greatly compounds the trauma. It is something no family should ever have to face. For parents who have lost a child due to this tragic and preventable cause, our hot car death lawyer at Terry Bryant Accident & Injury Law can help. Please call us at (713) 973-8888 to find out if you have a legal case.
Devastating Houston Case Results in Hot Car Death Lawsuit
Texas is one of the hottest spots in the country during the summer months, with outdoor temperatures averaging well into the 90s and often soaring much higher. Vehicle interior temperatures can be as high as 120 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. As summer temperatures rise, so does the chance that leaving a child in a car, even for a few minutes, can have devastating consequences.
Tragically, on July 19, 2018, three-year-old Raymond Preyer, Jr. was left in a daycare van outside the Discovering Me Academy in Houston for four hours as temperatures outside neared 113 degrees. He was found by his father, who later brought a $1 million hot car death lawsuit against the facility. Additionally, the tragic death was ruled a homicide by Harris County officials.
This distressing example is just one among far too many hot car death cases. When a child’s caretaker acts negligently, and injury or worse occurs, it can make sense to consult our child injury attorneys at Terry Bryant Law for advice.
Why Do Hot Car Deaths Even Happen?
Why do these tragic deaths occur? Most child deaths in hot vehicles are completely unintentional or accidental. Sometimes tired and busy parents and other caregivers inadvertently leave young children in cars. Unsupervised children may get into cars on their own. And in some cases, caregivers intentionally leave children in cars.
Here Are Some Scenarios that Can Lead to Tragedy
- Parents simply “space out” and forget that their infant or toddler is in the back seat.
- Children are left in a locked car while the driver exits the vehicle just to “run a quick errand.”
- Toddlers or preschoolers sneak into the car to play and end up locking themselves in.
- Playing children get trapped in car trunks.
The interiors of vehicles can heat up very quickly, even when the weather seems relatively mild outside. On an 80-degree day, the temperature inside a closed car can reach 100 degrees in just minutes. Children’s body temperatures heat up three to five times faster than adults, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. This means that children run a much higher risk of heat-related injuries that include dehydration, fever, seizures, stroke, and death.
Some people believe that if they crack their car windows and park in the shade, their children (or pets) will be safe in the car. This isn’t true. The fact is that babies and young kids should never be left alone in cars, especially in hot weather.
Hot Car Death Prevention in Sweltering Houston Heat
Following the death of Raymond Preyer, Jr. and other children in Houston, Harris County began offering rearview mirror placards reminding people to check their back seats. In addition to hanging such a reminder from your rearview mirror, there are other hot car death prevention steps that can be taken to keep kids safe.
Hot Car Prevention Tips
- Always look before you lock: Check the back seat every time you get out of the car before you lock it, even if your child isn’t with you. Make it a habit.
- When you strap your child into the backseat, leave your cell phone, briefcase, or other important item in the back seat with them, or keep your child’s favorite stuffed animal in the front seat with you as a reminder.
- When you get home, get your kids out of the car first, before unloading anything else.
- NEVER leave your child in a car, even for a minute, especially on hot, sunny days.
- Always lock your car and keep your keys secure so your children can’t find them at home.
- Teach your kids that cars are not play areas, and don’t allow them to play in them.
- If you don’t already have one, install a trunk release mechanism to help prevent children from being trapped in the trunk.
Childcare providers and daycare workers should also have plans to ensure that your children aren’t left in their cars or vans. Ask them to share their plans with you, and if you are not happy with what you hear, educate your child’s caretakers about other things that they can do to increase safety. Also, ask daycare providers to call you right away if your child does not arrive at their facility on time.
There are also mobile apps and sensor devices to help remind you when you’ve left your child in your car. These can be useful backup tools, but they should not take the place of habitually checking your backseat and other common-sense actions.
Additionally, be on watch when you’re in parking lots for cars that might have an unattended child left inside. If you see a child alone in a car, call 911 and stay by the car until law enforcement arrives so you can monitor the child’s condition.
Understand the Bottom Line on Leaving Children Alone in Hot Cars
The bottom line is this: Don’t leave your young children alone in the car at any time. With our sub-tropical climate, any time outside temperatures rise above 75 degrees, they can create interior heat levels which can threaten the health of a child who is locked in the car with the windows up. It’s just not safe.
One Mistake Can Lead to a Hot Car Death Lawsuit in Texas
Besides that, in Texas it’s illegal for anyone to knowingly or intentionally leave an unattended child in a motor vehicle for more than five minutes. If a child dies because of it, involuntary manslaughter charges (or worse) could be filed against the person who left the child in the vehicle. Don’t risk your potential freedom, and more importantly, your child’s life, by leaving them alone in a car.
Understanding Symptoms of Heat-Related Conditions
Two serious heat-related conditions that children left in cars can experience are heat exhaustion and heatstroke.
Heat Exhaustion Symptoms
Symptoms of heat exhaustion include:
- Heavy sweating
- A rapid pulse
- Cool skin with goosebumps even though it is hot.
If untreated, heat exhaustion can lead to heatstroke, which can be fatal.
Heatstroke can include heat exhaustion symptoms as well as:
- A high body temperature over 104 degrees, which is the main symptom of heatstroke
- Flushed skin
- Rapid breathing
- Loss of consciousness
If you believe your child is experiencing heat exhaustion or heatstroke, call 911 immediately. Then take whatever actions you can while waiting for emergency personnel. Get them into an air-conditioned room or the shade and cool their bodies with ice packs, a cool tub or shower, or even a garden hose. If they are able to drink, give them cool water, not cold — it can cause stomach cramping. Don’t give soda or other sugary or caffeinated drinks.
Remember, always look before you lock to be sure your child or pet is not left in a hot car.
It only takes a second.
Talk to Our Compassionate Hot Car Death Lawyer
We hope that no one reading this post will ever have to experience a hot car death tragedy. If you have, our hot car death lawyer can review your situation and counsel you compassionately and sensitively about your legal options. Please call us at (713) 973-8888 to learn more.