Back to School Safety for Our Kids – No Matter How They Get to School

A Perspective From a Parent and a Lawyer For Child Injury

Lawyer for Child Injury

It is back to school time and, at our house, this is a crazy time—getting supplies, meeting new teachers and figuring out a new schedule and how we will make it all work. Parents all across Iowa are dealing with the same stress, including trying to figure out how they are going to get their kids to and from school. Parents have a hard enough time worrying about just getting kids to and from school and they shouldn’t have to worry about their safety on the way. This article is intended to provide some tips for helping your kids get to and from school safely and some information that may be helpful if your child gets hurt while travelling to and from school. Here are a few things to consider to keep kids safe:

Riding a bike to school

Most kids love riding their bikes and for some families this can be a great way for a kid to get to and from school, at least before the first snow fall. Pediatricians agree that it is critical for children to wear a helmet while riding their bikes. Our office donates to a number of events where free bicycle helmets are provided for children who need them. Safe Kids Linn County often gives out free bicycle helmets. On With Life and the Brain Injury Alliance are giving out free helmets at the Iowa State Fair. If you cannot afford a bike helmet for your child and are unable to find a free giveaway, email me at ann@annbrownlegal.com and I will do my best to help. Another precaution parents can take is to make sure your child knows their route to school, including where they should cross each road and has practiced riding that route.

Walking to school

Lots of kids walk to school. It is a good idea to practice your child’s route with them and to remind them to walk on the sidewalk and of safe crossing practices. A number of Cedar Rapids Schools offer Walking School Bus, which is a group of students walking to and from school with one or more adults.

Driving to school

Having teenagers is incredibly stressful and when they start driving parents are constantly worried. One thing to remember is that in Iowa, persons under the age of 18 must have a graduated driver’s license (GDL). These are the levels for licenses in Iowa:

  • Age 14 - Learner’s Permit (only drive with adult)

  • Age 14½ - School Permit (can only drive alone to and from school activities)

  • Age 16 - Provisional License (completed driver’s education and had learner’s permit for one year)

  • Age 17 - Unrestricted License (had intermediate driver’s license and been accident free for 12 months).

See the Iowa DMV website for more information. https://www.dmv.org/ia-iowa/teen-drivers.php

Taking the bus to school

Many children take the bus to school. Make sure your child knows the name/number of their bus, the name of their bus driver and where they should catch the bus. If possible, children should wait with an adult or in a group for the bus to arrive. If you have specific concerns about your child on the bus, you should express those to the driver.

Unfortunately, despite all of the precautions that we take as parents, sometimes our children will get hurt on their way to or from school. If your child’s injury was caused by another person, such as a negligent motorist, or a homeowner who did not keep their sidewalk safe, you may want to speak with a lawyer for child injury about claims that your child may have.  A lawyer for child injury can help you understand what potential claims are available and how to bring those claims, given that a child cannot pursue those claims themselves. A child injury attorney will also be able to provide guidance about medical bills, dealing with the insurance company and obtaining court approval for any settlement.

If your child has been injured and you have questions, please contact us at (319) 826-2250 or fill out our contact form.

What To Do If Your Child Is Injured In A Car Accident

Child Injury Claims

Car accidents are among some of the most common child injury cases we see in our office – especially with older or teenage children. If your child has been injured in a car accident, you are likely juggling a lot and may require the assistance of a lawyer. Here are a few steps to keep in mind to arrive at the best outcome after a traumatic car accident.

1)   Actively Pursue Medical Treatment

First and foremost, take your child for whatever medical treatment is recommended, as soon as possible, including emergency room visits, follow-up appointments, therapies and rehabilitations, and more. The first priority must always be your child’s well-being and as a parent you know when your child is not back to normal and needs to continue with medical treatment.  It can be confusing trying to figure out which insurance should be paying your child’s medical bills, but a personal injury lawyer can discuss this with you and sort through how to submit the medical bills for payment.

2)   Decide Whether You Need a Lawyer

Acting on behalf of children can be more complicated than when only adults are involved. A court has to approve any settlement of a child’s claim that is more than $25,000. If your child’s car accident injury is significant, rather than a minor mishap, it may be best to hire a lawyer who can help with the issues that arise in pursuing and settling a child’s personal injury case.  It can be overwhelming caring for an injured child and making sure that the child receives the full value of their claim and a personal injury attorney can help.

3)   Keep Track of Damages

If you find that you need to work with a lawyer, you can rest assured that most of the necessary documentation can be taken care of by the legal team. However, you may want to make the process easier by keeping track of any losses or damages your child experiences. For children, these may include days absent from school, as well as medical bills. Keep a folder of bills, receipts, letters, and other documents you receive to share with the lawyer if you choose to hire one.

4)   Let the Lawyer Do the Talking

In speaking with an insurance adjuster, they may ask you or your child to make a statement to settle the claim. Rarely should you let your child give a statement to the insurance company, and if at all possible, avoid giving one yourself. In many cases involving significant injury with large claim settlements, it’s best if your lawyer speaks with the insurance company.

If you find that you need a lawyer after your child is injured in a car accident, we are here to help. We can walk you through the process and be your advocate with the insurance company and in court. For a free consultation, fill out our contact form or give us a call at (319) 826-2250.

We Stand With The Children Separated From Their Parents and Here is How You Can Too!

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I have been watching the news, horrified with the rest of the country, watching as immigrant children are taken from their parents at the US Border. Regardless of your feelings about immigration laws and immigration reform, I think we can all agree this practice has to stop and these babies need to be reunited with their families. 

I practice in personal injury and employment law, but watching this crisis unfold I have wished that I was an immigration lawyer so that I could advocate for these children in court. But these children need experienced immigration attorneys fighting for them and getting them back into the arms of their parents. If these children cannot obtain counsel they could stand in front of judges and represent themselves! There are a number of organizations providing legal advocacy that you can support financially. Our office is supporting RAICES, (Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services), and KIND (Kids in Need of Defense). Below are links to a number of organizations providing legal assistance to immigrant children:

  1.  RAICES Family Reunification and Bond Fund;
  2. Kids in Need of Defense; 
  3. The Florence Project; 
  4. The ACLU; 
  5. The Young Center for Immigrant Children's Rights; and 
  6. Together Rising Love Flash Mob for the Children

Even small donations help. In addition to financial support, these children need you to let your voices be heard. Contact your representatives to let them know that you oppose the policy of separating children from their parents at the border. If you want to learn more about what you can do in the face of this crisis, please read this article from the New York Times. 

THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS OTHER PEOPLE'S CHILDREN. 

Most Common Child Injury Cases

Child Injury Attorney

We believe children deserve to grow up in a safe environment, which gives them the freedom to grow and develop to their fullest potential. But sometimes accidents happen. Child injury claims exist to seek justice and to provide for a safer world for all of our children. Here are three of the most common types of injury cases we see in our office.

School Injuries

One category of child injury claims we have brought on behalf of children and their parents are claims against a school for injuries by the child. According to the Iowa Supreme Court, a school acts in the role of a parent while children are present in school. Stepping into the shoes of a parent, the school is then legally responsible for the care and well-being of the children during that time. While a school is not required to prevent every child injury, the school must take the same action that a reasonably prudent parent would. As a child injury attorney, I represent families whose children have been significantly injured because of school negligence.

Lead Poisoning

Unfortunately, another common child injury claim is for environmental exposure to a dangerous chemical such as lead. Lead poisoning is a very common child injury claim – and Ann Brown has represented multiple children who have suffered permanent injuries as a result of lead poisoning.

Iowa has a higher prevalence of lead poisoning than the national average, according to a CDC report, due in large part to a greater number of homes built in the mid 1900’s, when lead was used in paint. Children of families who buy or rent these homes may be exposed to lead through breathing or ingesting particles of that paint. Parents who rent such a home and whose children become lead poisoned may not realize they have a case, but we are here to help them navigate that process and recover damages that can help their child throughout their life.

Car Accidents

Car accidents are a common type of case we see, especially among teenagers. Insurance companies will often try to take a statement from an injured child or their parent, before they have had a chance to speak with a child injury attorney. We can help you deal with insurance companies, file a lawsuit and navigate the additional court process that is required in order to settle a child’s claim for any settlements over $25,000.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has identified the following as the most common types of child injuries: suffocation, drowning, poisoning, burns and falls. If a child suffered one of these injuries because of the fault of another person or because someone failed to adequately supervise the child, a parent should consider speaking with a child injury attorney to discuss compensation for their child and holding responsible parties accountable to prevent future harm to other children.

Child injury claims can be factually, legally and emotionally complicated. We stand with our clients and help them through this incredibly difficult time because we believe all children deserve justice and a bright tomorrow.

If you need a lawyer to represent your child after an injury, please call us for a free consultation at (319) 826-2250 or fill out our contact form.

Girls Who Read Become Women Who Lead

We are pretty excited here at Ann Brown Legal to be launching our annual charitable initiative we have decided to call Girls Who Read Become Women Lead. Every year we will donate a book that we believe has an empowering message for young girls to each of the elementary schools in the Cedar Rapids Community School District to use in their library. This initiative is near and dear to the hearts of all of us at the firm because we are all avid readers. We are also committed to seeing the girls in our community reach their full potential and believe that providing access to books featuring strong female characters or strong messages for young girls is a step in the right direction.

A recent study conducted at Dartmouth College found that 57% of children's books published in the United States featured male lead characters and only 36.5% featured female lead characters. The researchers found that these disparities "contribute to a sense of unimportance among girls." But many authors and publishers are committed to changing this and Girls Who Read Become Women Who Lead is about making sure that girls in Cedar Rapids have access to these books.

Unfortunately, Cedar Rapids Public Schools are grossly underfunded, which results in limited resources available for expanding, or even maintaining, school libraries. We hope to help in some small way and potentially inspire others to do the same by donating books to school libraries in need.

This year the book we have chosen is Strong is the New Pretty: A Celebration of Girls Being Themselves, by  Kate T. Parker. The book features amazing photographs of girls playing, fighting, living and loving along with powerful messages from each girl. One message from 12-year-old Kylie is: "Some girls never lose. They only learn and come back stronger." We were inspired by the book and reminded just to be ourselves, and we hope that the girls who get to read the book feel the same. 

 

Happy reading to our future leaders!

 

Bicycle Accidents—What Every Iowa Motorist Needs to Know

 Iowa bicycle accident lawyer

When I was a child, my bicycle meant freedom to me. Before we had drivers' licenses, my friends and I would ride our bikes all through our neighborhood. Now my daughter and her friends ride off on their bikes almost every night when the weather is warm(ish). I still love riding my bike as an adult—it is a great way to get outside. 

With spring finally here, bicyclists of all ages are out on the streets, and it is important for motorists to keep an eye out. Bicycle accidents can have tragic consequences, and so it is important for motorists to obey all traffic laws relating to bicycles. Most of Iowa's laws concerning bicycle-motorist safety are found in Iowa Code Chapter 321. Here are a few provisions to keep in mind:

  • Drivers are prohibited from steering unreasonably close to bicyclists, including bicyclists that are on the roadway and on the shoulder;
  • The same rules for passing vehicles apply to passing bicycles—drivers should only pass bicyclists when it is safe to change lanes; and
  • Drivers should avoid following bicyclists too closely. 

For more safe driving tips designed to keep Iowa bicyclists safe click here. 

If your child needs a bike helmet, visit Safe Kids Linn County to find out how to get a free children's bicycle helmet. Also, Ann Brown Legal is a contributor to the Hiawatha Memorial Day Bike Rodeo where they give away bike helmets to the first 50 children. 

The Water Crisis in Flint and Why We Must do More to Protect Our Children from Lead Poisoning

While many Iowan's likely have followed the story of the lead-tainted water in Flint, most people probably think that lead poisoning is an isolated problem only impacting the children of Flint. The truth, however, is that Iowa's children are lead poisoned at a higher rate than the national average and the failures in Flint, highlight a widespread problem that many people know nothing about, but that is entirely preventable. 

Flint, Michigan is a city with a population under 100,000 where over 41% live below the poverty line.  In 2015, multiple studies found that Flint's water supply was contaminated with lead as a result of various cost-saving measures previously taken by the City and that incidents of lead poisoning in Flint had increased dramatically. The investigation into the contaminated water found negligence and even criminal conduct on behalf of a number of public employees and has resulted in numerous lawsuits and prosecutions. The disaster in Flint has called attention to a nationwide health crisis—childhood lead poisoning—that is often overlooked because most of the children impacted are poor.

Lead poisoning is particularly devastating because it causes permanent brain damage in young children. It is heartbreaking that a poisoning that a child suffers at the age of one or two can impact that child for the rest of their lives. I have represented children who suffered such severe brain damage that they will never be able to live independently. Particularly scary is that children often display no visible symptoms of lead poisoning.

Unlike Flint, most Iowa children who are poisoned are exposed to lead paint and not contaminated water.  Homes built before 1950 likely contain lead-based paint. While many impoverished children live in homes built before 1950, lead poisoning is not unavoidable—it is completely preventable. Lead paint that is kept in good condition is usually not a hazard to small children, who become poisoned through paint chips and paint dust. So, who is responsible and who is failing these children? In most cases, it is negligent landlords.

While many Iowa parents do not know about lead poisoning, most Iowa landlords do. Landlords are required to provide certain information to tenants regarding the risk of lead poisoning.  Most landlords know that chipping and peeling paint causes childhood lead poisoning. Additionally, the law requires that landlords keep their properties in a safe condition, including keeping their properties free from lead hazards. Some cities, like Cedar Rapids and Waterloo, even have specific provisions in the City Code that require landlords to keep their properties lead safe. 

So why are Iowa's children still becoming lead poisoned at such a high rate? One big reason is that landlords are not doing their jobs. This failure often goes undetected because many of the families and children impacted by lead poisoning are poor. But the injustice of robbing a child of his or her potential by simply failing to keep a property in good repair is no less great for poor children. If the water crisis in Flint has taught us anything, it is that every child deserves to grow up healthy and that the adults who fail those children should be held accountable.  

The biggest tragedy to me having supervised the treatment of over 25,000 lead poisoned children is the fact that the child’s life is gone. It is wrecked forever, as early as one or two years of age and there’s no recovery.
— Dr. John Rosen

If your child has been lead poisoned and you would like more information about holding your landlord accountable, call us at (319) 826-2250.  

Representing children is not simply representing small adults

 Iowa Child Injury Attorney 

It is particularly devastating when a child sustains a preventable injury. Beyond simply the additional tragedy that occurs when a child is injured, there are also additional legal considerations. I have represented many Iowa children, injured because of someone else's negligence and have found that it is critical to thoroughly understand the law applicable to pursuing a claim and obtaining a recovery on behalf of a child. 

One of the first things to understand is that a child cannot bring a lawsuit on behalf of themselves; the lawsuit must be filed by an adult. Oftentimes, the lawsuit is filed by the child's parents, but when that is not possible, the court will appoint a conservator to pursue the child's claim. Parents of injured children have their own claims, called loss of consortium, that are often brought in the same lawsuit as the child's claim. 

Additionally, if the adult bringing the claim on behalf of the child settles the child's claim for more than $25,000, the court must approve the settlement and in part how the settlement money will be spent. It is critical for children who are receiving public benefits like Medicaid, Social Security, food stamps or rental assistance to have their settlement structured in a way that allows the child and their family to retain most benefits. This is also an important consideration if the child has a mental disability and may need public benefits in the future. 

I have found that money obtained on behalf of injured children has often been life changing for those children. For some of my young clients, it has provided the means for a safe and healthy home; for others, it has allowed them to obtain additional services not otherwise available to the child. Pursuing claims on behalf of injured children is absolutely one of the most important things that I do as a lawyer.