Yesterday our news items included a motorcycle-deer crash near Le Mars. Today I'm taking that a bit further and discussing whether child-neglect laws require parents to protect children by requiring them to wear a helmet while riding.

I’ve been following motorcycle crashes now for well over a year to determine causes and how they might be prevented. One way to prevent serious injury, including brain damage is to wear a helmet. Preventing the accident or wreck can include educating car and truck drivers to be more aware and to look harder during the summer months for motorcycles, but more than half of all accidents involving motorcycles aren’t with another vehicle. As we’ve reported before animals, including deer, are a considerable safety factor.

Here was yesterday’s news report.

Another motorcycle-deer collision caused injury to a Remsen father and so. The Sioux City Journal reports Michael and John Naser were taken to Mercy Medical CenterSioux City for injuries received on Iowa Highway 3 near Polk Avenue in Plymouth County. No report on whether or not a helmet was worn by the 12 year old passenger and the extent of injuries each received. I’ve wondered if a parent has a common law duty to protect a child with a helmet, even though state law does not require one. State law doesn’t require a parent to hold a child’s hand while crossing a busy street, but the common sense tells us otherwise. While children in most instances can not sue a parent in civil court for negligence county officials might charge a parent with neglect under Iowa State Law. Many states have such laws which are collected at the Child Welfare Information Gateway site. I say this because neglect can include a failure to supervise.

Neglect - Neglect is frequently defined in terms of deprivation of adequate food, clothing, shelter, medical care, or supervision. Approximately 21 States and American Samoa, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands include failure to educate the child as required by law in their definition of neglect.5 Seven States further define medical neglect as failing to provide any special medical treatment or mental health care needed by the child.6 In addition, four States define as medical neglect the withholding of medical treatment or nutrition from disabled infants with life-threatening conditions.7

As a lawyer who represents people I’ve been conditioned to look ahead. Any parent whose child was killed while on a motorcycle riding without a helmet might find themselves charged with a crime by an over-enthusiastic prosecutor. It’s something to consider.

Neglect that results in a child’s death often times draws serious consideration to the degree of risk the child was exposed.

Fatal Neglect - Certainly the most severe, irrecoverable consequence of neglect is death. In 1996, a review of the States' child maltreatment fatalities revealed that 45 percent of the deaths were attributed to neglect and an additional 3 percent to neglect and abuse (Wang & Daro, 1997). Although not all States reported the data, it is estimated that these percentages translate into approximately 502 child deaths associated with neglect in 1996. Another study conducted in Iowa (which only had a sample size of 34) found that two-thirds of the children who died from neglect were under the age of 2, more than two-thirds were male, and families had an average of 3.3 children (Margolin, 1990). This study also found that the large majority of children who died due to neglect died as a result of a single life-threatening incident rather than from chronic neglect. These fatalities included drowning and scalding in bathtubs, fires, unsafe cribs, gun accidents, choking, and drug/alcohol overdoses. "In the vast majority of fatalities from neglect, a caregiver was simply not there when needed at a critical moment" (Margolin, 1990, p. 314).

See Acts of Omission : An Overview of Child Neglect, Bulletin for Professionals, 2001.

While I offer no opinion on whether this is even possible it something to consider. As our government resources to pay for medical care become tighter these are the areas where legal concerns abound. Where your helmet or at least require your child to wear one. Be safe not sorry.

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