Do Child Care Providers Need Coverage for Mental Anguish?
On August 12th a Woodbridge, Virginia child care provider punished a 4-year-old girl by tying her hands behind her back and locking her in the closet for ten minutes. This absurd, cruel and traumatizing "punishment" has led to the provider being arrested and charged with abduction, child abuse and neglect. http://ow.ly/dhQxj
No doubt, this provider will lose her license and be barred from having anything to do with children in the future.
It is very likely that the girl's parents will file a lawsuit.
It is also likely that since there was no physical harm to the child that any forthcoming lawsuit will be for mental anguish, an area of risk not generally covered in liability policies.
All liability policies are written to insure for bodily injury or property damage done as the result of your negligence. In the early education and child care field this is a relatively simple concept.
Bodily injury claims can easily be illustrated by the following scenario. You have a metal slide on your playground that is not shaded by any trees, canopy or cover. In the height of summer the surface of the slide reaches 163 degrees. Children going down the slide in shorts end up with burns on their legs. They have sustained bodily injury.
Property damage can be illustrated by this example. Suppose you allow children to bring personal possessions to your facility. A bunch of kids take their matchbox cars out to the playground and throw them over the fence breaking the windshield of a car in your parking lot. Property has been damaged because the children were not properly supervised.
As witnessed by the Woodbridge incident, the potential harm to children in the early education and childcare field is not limited to bodily injury or property damage. Mental anguish is also a possible injury children can suffer in this environment.
Hopefully, most of us and our staffs are too kind, smart and caring to tie a child up and put them in a closet. But as a quick online search for "kids tyed up at child care" will sadly prove to you, this is not a rare occurrence.
Suppose you have a teacher or caregiver suffering from burnout; she finally loses her cool and threatens a child with physical harm, but never actually touches the child.
Suppose you have a child who is being molested at home who doesn't act out with other children, but tells them about sex acts.
Suppose a parent exposes themselves to a child while on your premises.
In these cases the children did not suffer any bodily injury and they certainly did not experience property damage; what they did suffer is mental anguish.
Insurance policies are not constructed to provide coverage for mental anguish; the coverage must be specifically added in order for you to get the protection you need.