I am in a moral quandry. My son, who turns 2 in May, suffered second and third degree burns on various parts of his body after tripping into an ash pile in our neighbor's yard. We are living with my family right now, so when I say "our" house, I mean "my parents' house."
I watched it happen. Our neighbor's have an opening into their back-yard where there's no fencing. All of the kids run along this fence-line. My sister's kids had come over to play with the neighbor's kids. My little guy is still not old enough to really keep up with them, but on this afternoon they were all out on our driveway before venturing into the yard next door. After I gave my son a juice box, he took off after all the other kids, and I was literally a few feet behind him, when I saw the pile. I squinted and remember thinking "Is that a pile of sand?" No sooner had I asked, when his fall, and his horrendous screams indicated that this was not sand, but a hot pile of ashes from a fire that the neighbors had burned, (illegally) earlier in the day.
We spent 3 hours in the ER and I was told that he had multiple 2nd degree burns, with possible third degree burns on his wrist and his knee. I was also told that he might require surgery. He literally had no skin on his knee or his hand, and it is the most horrific thing I've ever seen. He has had to follow up with a pediatric burn center, and is receiving great care, and healing nicely. (It has been a little over 2 weeks since this happened).
The night we came home from the ER, my dad went to the neighbor's house and told the wife that my son had been severely burned, and would need follow up treatment, with possible surgery. We thought that at some point over the weekend, either she or her husband would have come by to see how he was doing, or to maybe offer help with his medical bills. We haven't heard a peep. My parents were outraged that their neighbors continue burning fires illegally in their yard, and that on this day, the unattended ash pile massively injured their grandchild. They are not litigious people, but they compiled several pictures of my son's injuries, as well as his singed clothes, and we consulted with an attorney.
I should mention that the neighbors aren't exactly friendly. They let their son play with the kids in our family, and sometimes let him stay here for extended periods of time without ever checking on him. We never really mind, but it has made us wonder just how responsible of parents they are. And now, obviously, I consider them extremely irresponsible for not warning any of the children, or any of the parents, about this dangerous ash pile.
Well yesterday, the little boy came over to get his toy helicopter in our yard, and my mom and dad both felt bad. They think that if we pursue a lawsuit it will affect the kids. They might not let him come play here anymore. My dad asked me to call the attorney and tell him to forget it. In the meantime, my aunt calls and tells me that I should definitely follow through with this because my son is entitled to compensation for his pain and suffering.
But when the words "trust fund for college" started getting tossed around, it really made my head spin. I'm not trying to benefit from my son' pain, but on the other hand, how can I justify it?
I kept thinking that this would be considered my fault because it happened on someone else's property, but our attorney said it doesn't matter. I am still amazed that it happened literally before my eyes. I had no idea that it was a hot ash pile.
Accidents happen. People do stupid things. I'm a forgiving person, but I'm also not going to just let this slide without even a word of apology from the neighbors. I feel like maybe I should pursue the claim, but then I feel awkward because the way my son's burns look now, I do not think he will need surgery, and instead he'll just have some little scars. Maybe I need to just be thankful that he wasn't killed, and move on.
But then I think- why should it be okay that he has scars, that he was traumatized, that it was never even acknowledged, and that we have several follow-up doctor appointments now?
My aunt says it is just business, and that nobody has to take this personally. The insurance claims exist for this sole purpose. I was feeling like it might be fair to have their insurance cover what mine already did- for example, if the ER visit was $10,000, and they decide to put that in a fund for my child, then that seems like equal compensation.
I don't "like" this, though. It just all feels uncomfortable. Has anyone gone through anything like this? Did you feel justified? I wish we lived in a society where people still "talked things out" or had a middle-man. But these people next door have just acted like nothing ever happened. They aren't here for the changing of the bandages every night- the awful, excruciating experience this has been. And they seem to think it has all just gone away.
What would you do?
I'm so sorry this happened to your son! I hope he has a good recovery. Have you looked into something called the "skin gun"? It's a new treatment for serious burns.
I would sue if this happened to my child. I don't think it's right to sue over every little thing, but a 2 year old covered in 2nd and 3rd degree burns is a BIG thing.
cancer-beating wife to DH since 7/4/09, mother to DS 5/1/11 + DD 8/21/2013
Look, this is what homeowner's insurance or renter's insurance is for. Bodily Injury on your property. It's pretty no nonsense, not a personal vendetta sort of thing, but a fact of life and living. Trust me, if someone slipped on your driveway and broke their leg youre going to be sued. Not because they personally hate you or hold you responsible but -that's what the insurance is for!- So, in other words, youre being emotional about a very non-emotional thing that needs to happen.
If someone crashed into your bumper, and it was only kinda messed up but not devastating, would you not get that person's insurance and get reimbursed? You probably would (as you should). So here's your beautiful son, same thing, why hesitate??
Hope I dont sound mean. I'm very much on the side that you need to process a claim here. Again, it's not a personal thing. The kids can all still play together. It's merely getting insurance to pay out for what the neighbors pay monthly for!! They pay for it, that's what it's for!! They should understand that.
I'm so sorry your little guy was hurt. How is he doing now?
I had almost this exact same thing happen. I KNOW how horrific it is. Yes, it could have been worse. But knowing it could have been worse does not change the circumstances you are dealing with. I remember having to change those bandages. AWFUL. I remember my little boy, who was so agile, crying while he was trying to run. It's awful. It's been over two years and my son is doing amazing. He has scars, physical and emotional. He deserves some kind of compensation.
The difference with my case is that the house where this occurred was that of a really good friend. When it happened, she could not stop crying. I found myself comforting her! I know it was awful being in her shoes. I told her we needed to make a claim to her insurance and she said yes, of course, that's what insurance is for, etc. She apologized and followed up. I am still friends with her.
The fact that these folks were so negligent and then offer no kind of remorse is not okay. When you feel bad about compensation, ask yourself this: What does your son deserve? Not what you deserve, but your son. You're not doing this for you and you don't have to justify it to anyone. The other thing I might ask myself were I in your shoes is are you okay with this or something worse happening to another child? These folks need to be made responsible if they are unable to take responsibility voluntarily.
My heart goes out to you. Please PM me if you have any questions. This happened to my son about 2 and 1/2 years ago. :-)
Wife to one amazing husband , SAHM to DS 10/09, DS 10/19, one furbaby , and lots of !
For some reason, I wasn't receiving notifications through my email, so I had no idea that so many of you responded. I've read all of your comments, and I really appreciate them. It has been a stressful time, but I think I'm feeling better about my decision moving forward.
I drafted a letter to the neighbors' last week, that explained how hurt I was that they had never come to visit my son, or called to see how he was. At the end, I proposed dropping the claim, if they had a better alternative, one that still compensated my son for his suffering.
As of right now, the letter is un-sent. I picked up his pants that were literally singed with massive burn holes, and his charred little sneakers, and that was it. I decided there is a time and a place for everything, and a situation like this deserves to be followed through with a claim.
To stormborn- thanks for asking. He is doing much better. The burn on his palm is healed, and he will likely have a scar on the underside of his wrist, but hopefully no surgery. His knee looks awful to me, but considering what it was the first week, I'm relieved. We have a great doctor who is watching his healing process very closely.
gracigal, I was having this exact thought further into my decision-making dilemma. Thanks.
mamapigeon- thanks for that info! I Googled the skin gun, and I think we're past the stage where he would need something like that, but it was very interesting to read about!
Ratchet- good questions. I'm going to bring these up with my attorney.
It was such a relief to be able to share this with the community here. I was getting too emotional talking about with my family all of the time!
dalia- I'll PM you!