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What responsibilities do play area owners, managers have?

As we enter the spring and summer months, more Mississippi kids will be spending time on playgrounds at schools and local parks. Many homeowners have extensive play areas in their backyards as well.

Most every parent has dealt with at least some cuts, bruises and bumps that their kids have gotten on playground equipment. However, over 220,000 kids under 14 are treated every year in this country in emergency rooms for more serious playground-related injuries like concussions, broken and dislocated bones and even damage to internal organs. While fatal injuries are rare, some children have been killed by falls and strangulations in play areas. Some 70 percent of fatal play area injuries occur at people's homes.

While moving play equipment like slides, swings and seesaws can be particularly dangerous if a child falls, so can stationary equipment. Many kids are injured when they strike sharp edges of equipment as they're falling. The playground surface can play a role in minimizing the severity of injuries.

Those who own and manage play areas -- including schools, cities and individual homeowners -- are responsible for keeping the area supervised by responsible adults. This means ensuring that kids stick to equipment that's age appropriate.

Those responsible for play areas also need to be sure the equipment is properly installed and assembled, in good working order and free of rust. Parents, babysitters, teachers and others who supervise children also have a responsibility to report any issues they see with play area equipment.

While some play area injuries are inevitable, many are preventable. At the very least, they don't have to be as serious as they sometimes are.

If you believe that your child's play area injury could and should have been prevented with proper equipment maintenance, playground design or supervision, it may be wise to find out what legal options you have. You may be able to seek compensation for medical treatment, physical therapy and other expenses and damages. By taking legal action, you may also be able to help prevent more kids from suffering unnecessary injuries.

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