Elizabeth Kaveny is the Managing Partner of Kaveny + Kroll Trial Lawyers (www.kavenykroll.com) who specialize in all areas of medical malpractice and personal injury. Even more important, she is the Mother of four children. Kaveny has seen first-hand at work and at home, the risks that exist in daily life for the youngest and most defenseless in our families.
Most of us have gone through the process of ‘baby proofing’ our living space, sometimes haphazardly after a fall and sometimes methodically prior to baby’s first (pick one) birth, crawl, step, run. In today’s world, individuals and companies exist solely for the purpose of unearthing potential hazards in every nook and cranny of our homes. That is certainly an option, but for those who choose to ‘go it alone’, keep in mind some basic caveats:
1) Baby’s Crib – This should be free of any loose items, blankets, pillows and babybumpers. It may look snazzy, but the risks of these items becoming a choking hazard far outweigh their aesthetic appeal. This, along with the ‘Back to Sleep’ movement of placing infants on their back to go to bed, has significantly reduced the incidences of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). If your child’s crib is near a window, make sure that there are no hanging ‘pulls’ to operate blinds or drapes that can easily become a dangerous play toy.
What’s more, windows near a baby’s crib, or bed should be shut and locked if possible. If the room requires ventilation, consider opening the window from the top, maintaining less than a ½ inch gap.
2) Baby’s Gate – A lifesaver from an unexpected tumble down the stairs or into a room that poses other hazards. But in order to work, gates need to be installed correctly. Gates should fit the walkway that they are covering and be secure. Pressure gates at the top of the stairs are not a good idea as they can yield from weight.
A 2014 study published in Academic Pediatrics found that five kids wind up in the emergency room each day with everything from cuts to traumatic brain injuries because of incorrect use of baby gates.
3) Batteries – There is an old adage that young children appreciate the batteries more than the toys they power. Raising four children, Kaveny knows this to be true! Yet, batteries are dangerous play objects. Children can easily choke on a battery if put in their mouth. Once ingested, the batteries can also cause serious chemical burns and poisoning.
4) Pet food/water – Even if Fido is perfectly trained, baby still watches the pup, or the cat! eat their food and drink their water. Baby sees, baby does…but with less stellar results. An infant or toddler can choke on a piece of kibble and it is often said that children can drown in two inches of water, about the average amount in an animal’s bowl. Keep your pets in an enclosed area for feeding time during these younger years. It will also protect children from challenging the family pet during one of the most territorial times of the day … mealtime.
What about product recalls and items that are ‘attached’ to your home such as lead paint?
As Trial Lawyers who fight daily for justice and compensation for victims, including little ones, who have been injured or killed due to the negligence of others, we suggest that you ‘arm’ yourself with the best defense possible … information.
In an age of instantaneous media and Google, use your resources to check out toys before you bring them into your home. Parent groups and magazines are other great sources that can provide information. And remember, certain toys which can be entirely benign for an older child can prove to be quite dangerous for a younger one. Polly Pocket dolls, Matchbook race cars and other items are hazardous when left out by older children and found by the ever inquisitive crawling baby. Regularly conduct ‘clean sweeps’ of play areas to remove errant objects that a little one could grab. Staying on the alert is often the best remedy.
Lead paint, used routinely throughout homes until it was banned in 1978, is still very present in some of the older architecture that defines Chicago and its surrounding suburbs.
A lead paint disclaimer should be issued when purchasing a home, but what if it isn’t? And what if your home has been passed on through generations? And what if the buyer did not disclose lead paint? The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends test kits which can be purchased online or in virtually hardware store to test surfaces that are suspect.
There are also professionals who test and remediate homes that have lead paint. This is not a do it yourself job! Lead paint flakes quite easily and, from what we know, has a ‘sweeter’ taste, which is attractive to small children (and pets!). In order to properly remove lead paint, the area must be sealed properly and cleanup should be meticulous.
Even with the best preparation and/or intent, issues can occur. In these cases, make sure that you seek counsel for accidents that can be the result of misinformation, dangerous products or faulty workmanship. Raising children requires our all. And sometimes, it requires even more.
Elizabeth Kaveny is the Managing Partner of Kaveny + Kroll Trial Lawyers (www.kavenykroll) in Chicago.