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Children Are Especially Vulnerable Heat Stroke Injuries or Death When Left Unattended in Cars or Buses

Every summer brings the promise of summer fun for school-aged children. Some parents may arrange for their children to set out for a sleep-away camp while others kids may attend a day camp program.  Camp programs can include generalized summer activities such as trips to the lake or beach, water park, or other summer amusements. Summer camp programs can also include sports camps and math, science, and English enrichment camps.

However, regardless as to where parents may send their child for summer activities, parents expect the caregivers at the camp or care facility to protect their children from known and identified dangers. While the vast majority of camps do ensure a safe and enjoyable summer experience, mistakes can occur. Camp counselors may forget to adhere to their training and camp procedures and may leave a child behind in a school or camp bus or other vehicle after heading out to a destination or when returning to camp. While such as mistake seems relatively minor, children are especially at risk of severe heat stroke injuries or death due to heat stroke than the average adult.

Preventable Mistakes Cause heat Stroke Deaths Every Year

The dangerous of a rapidly warming car during the warmer months is a well-known risk. Unfortunately, despite being well-known it is also an error made with frightening frequency in light of the potentially fatal consequences. In fact, a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) study revealed that heatstroke deaths are the leading non-crash-related source of injuries for children 14 years old and younger. Statistics show that from 1998 until 2014, 636 children tragically lost their lives after being left behind unattended in a vehicle.  This means that each year there is an average of nearly 40 heat stroke deaths in children due to being left unattended in a rapidly warming vehicle.

Perhaps as should be expected, nationally, heatstroke-related deaths peak in July. August and June, respectively, are the months where the risk is second and third-most pronounced. However, what is surprising is that child heatstroke deaths are reported during every month of the year. That is, while the risk is most pronounced in the summer, death can occur when ambient temperatures are as low as about 60 degrees.

Understanding How a Sealed Bus or Car Can Rapidly Heat Up

Even when ambient temperatures don’t seem particularly dangerous, an unattended vehicle can still rapidly reach extremely dangerous temperatures. Most people would agree that an 86 degree day would be warm, but not unseasonably hot for the summer months. However, even with an ambient temperature of only 86, the vehicle would heat to approximately 100 degrees after about ten minutes in direct sunlight. After another 10 minutes, the vehicle will have reached around 110 degrees. After a half-hour in the sun, the vehicle’s internal temperature is likely to reach approximately 115 degrees. After an hour, the vehicle’s internal temperature will measure well over 120 degrees. In short, caregivers, teachers, and camp counselors should assume that a vehicle temperature can increase by 20 degrees in as little as ten minutes. A momentary error can have life-altering or life-ending consequences.

ambulance driving

Children Are Especially Vulnerable to Death in Hot Vehicles

Unfortunately, despite being such an easy error to make due to fatigue or simply not following through with procedures the stakes are incredibly high for this type of event. This is because children are less able than a healthy adult to maintain a consistent body temperature. In fact, a child’s body temperature increases at a rate three to five times faster than an adult’s body. This means that a child’s life is in jeopardy long before an adult would be placed at risk. When seconds or minutes count, this difference in physiology can transform an error into a tragedy.

Has Your Child Suffered a Severe Heat Stroke Injury?

While heat stroke injuries are relatively common occurrences, that does not mean they are inevitable or preventable. Every summer camp and child care facility should develop and establish policies to prevent injuries and deaths of this type. Furthermore, workers and caregivers must be regularly trained in these measures. One simple, common-sense approach to the issue could be to always require a counselor, worker, or bus driver to walk-through and scan each seat on the bus for a child. However, this is only a partial solution and additional steps would be necessary to increase compliance with this and other related policies.

If your child has been seriously injured or if the unthinkable has occurred due to caregiver negligence at a summer camp program, the experienced personal injury lawyers of Sullivan & Galleshaw can fight for you and your family. To schedule a free and private legal consultation call us at 718-843-0300 or contact us online. We have offices in Manhattan, Brooklyn, & Queens.


Over our many years practicing personal injury law, our highly experienced legal team has earned a reputation for excellence. Our attorneys have appeared on major media outlets such as Fox News and MSNBC . Our firm’s legal accomplishments have been profiled by the New York Law Journal, the Los Angeles Times, ESPN, and the Associated Press. We have won multiple verdicts in excess of $1 million, making us proud members of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, a prestigious organization which admits fewer than 1% of all attorneys in the United States. We were named Super Lawyers in 2011, and enjoy a perfect 10/10 Superb rating on national attorney database Avvo.

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