D.C.’s Child Fatality Rates Drop, but Still Not Great

By Peter DePaolis

For years, the District of Columbia has carried a sobering rank on child fatalities per year. For years, DC has ranked as one of the highest for child and infant mortality rates, but from 2008 to 2015, improvements have been seen in terms of the number of child fatalities.

The area saw a 53 percent decrease in deaths from ages 15 to 19 years old, and infant mortality rates also improved. The primary reasons for the increase over the years were the area’s lack of safety for children and teens – leading to hundreds of unnecessary deaths each year.

The Numbers are Great, but the Work Is Not Done

While the recent statistics are promising, there is plenty more to still be done. While numbers are going down, the same report shows that the child fatality rate of the area is 69 percent higher than the national average. Also, the number of child fatalities increased between 2013 and 2015, which affects the long-term numbers and outlook.

The report also found inconsistencies between specific communities of DC. For example, the report found that African American children, as well as those living in Wards 5, 7, and 8, were at higher risk for fatalities. Also, young African American men were more likely to die due to homicide or gun violence in DC.

Recent Safety Concerns and the Increase in Child Fatalities

While gun violence and crime are one of the main causes of child fatalities, safety is another issue here. From unsafe playgrounds to neighborhoods, many of the conditions that lead to fatal accidents could be corrected, and these deaths prevented in the future.

The number of unsafe properties in DC is especially troubling. Children can easily become injured or suffer a fatal accident on these abandoned and occupied properties. While agencies have been working to establish inspections for troubled Wards, most of their efforts have been thwarted.

Common fatal injuries seen on properties in DC include:

  • Trip, Slip and Fall Injuries – A slip and fall can be deadly, especially for a small child. If a small child were to fall and strike his or her head on concrete, the trauma could be fatal. Homeowners and property managers are required to keep their properties safe and reduce any trip, slip, or fall hazards. However, many properties in DC, especially in poorer communities, are ill-managed and rarely maintained.
  • Construction Site Accidents – Construction sites should be fenced off and locked to prevent small children from wandering onto the site. When children enter construction sites, they could injure themselves in numerous ways – including falling into pits, falling from great heights, being injured by construction equipment, or electrocution.
  • Swimming Pool Drownings – Homeowners and property managers with a swimming pool on their property are required to not only fence that pool but ensure that small children are not able to access it without supervision. Sadly, too many properties have been abandoned and leave swimming pools without fences or monitoring.

What to do When Your Child is Injured

Children are precious and meant to be protected. As a community, we must do what we can to reduce safety hazards, especially for younger children that cannot do it for themselves.

Premises liability law requires landowners to maintain their properties, and keep them safe for all people visiting or entering the property. While property owners are not responsible for trespassers, small children are not classified as trespassers – because they often are unaware that they are entering property without authorization.

Therefore, when a child is injured due to unsafe property conditions, or a fatal accident occurs, that property owner is still liable for the damages.

If your child was injured on someone’s unsafe property, contact Koonz McKenney Johnson & DePaolis LLP immediately. Schedule a consultation with our DC office at 202-794-6126 or contact another office location near you. You can also request a consultation appointment online by completing the online contact form.

About the Author
Peter DePaolis joined the firm in 1980 and has since represented a large number of individuals involved in automobile collisions, truck accidents, bus crashes, defective products, and medical malpractice cases. A significant portion of Mr. DePaolis’ practice is devoted to working on behalf of people suffering from asbestosis, mesothelioma, and other asbestos-related cancers. He has led his firm’s fight against the asbestos industry and has recovered over $30 million in damages for asbestos victims and their families.