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Carrying Infants Can Give Rise to Stair Injuries

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By Andrew Chow, Esq. on March 20, 2012 6:57 AM

Infants seriously hurt in staircase injuries are often being carried by a parent or caregiver, a new study finds. Multitasking may be to blame for the accidents, researchers told CNN.

For children under 1 year of age, nearly 25% of stair injuries occurred while the child was being carried, according to researchers at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. Their study, which looked at stair injuries involving children under 5 between 1999 and 2008, appears in the journal Pediatrics.

"The staggering statistic is that we continue to see a child, on average, every six minutes in this country rushed to a hospital emergency department with a stair-related injury," the study's author told CNN.

That's despite an 11.6% decline in children's stair injuries overall between 1999 and 2008, according to the study. Stair injuries involving baby walkers saw the most dramatic decline, reflecting a nationwide trend away from the use of baby walkers, the study found.

But during the 10-year study period, more than 53,000 children were treated for falls while being carried by an adult who lost his or her balance, the study found. "These falls often resulted in serious injuries, likely because of the force from the tumbling adult on the child," the study said.

Most children's stair injuries occur in the child's home, The New York Times reports. Personal-injury lawsuits generally aren't filed in those cases.

But if there's evidence that another party's negligence somehow caused the stair injury, that may be grounds for a lawsuit. For example, if a child falls in a neighbor's stairwell because of a dangerous condition such as a spill or a lack of guardrails, the neighbor may be held liable if he or she:

  • Created the dangerous condition,
  • Knew about the dangerous condition but didn't take steps to correct it, or
  • Should have known about the dangerous condition, because it existed for such a long time.

The children's stair injury study also recommended ways to prevent such injuries: Install handrails, use hard-mounted baby gates, and mark the edge of each step with paint to make it more visible.

As for preventing infant stair injuries, "take only the child in your arm and leave that other arm free to hold onto the railing," the study's author told CNN. "But the best thing to do ... [is] just leave your child in a safe place -- put them in the crib."

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