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A newborn baby sitting in a car seat in a hot car.

July 31, 2019 | | ,

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What to do if you see a child or pet in a hot car.

Children and pets being left in hot cars is a topic which has been getting more attention recently, and for good reason. No one sets out in the morning to put their child or pet at risk in a hot car, and yet in 2018, 52 children died in hot cars. It was the deadliest year on record for the past 20 years, according to The National Safety Council (NSC).

When can it get too hot inside a car?

We all know that it gets hot inside of a closed vehicle in the summer, just think of when you open the door on a sunny day and feel a rush of hot air. Have you ever thought about just how hot it gets inside the car and how long it takes? According to the website kidsandcars.org, even with the windows cracked, the inside temperature in a car can reach 125 degrees, with 80% of the temperature increase occurring in the first 10 minutes.

How does this happen?

You may associate heat related deaths to extreme temperatures, but in fact, even on mild or cloudy days, the temperature inside a car can reach life-threatening levels. Although it may seem strange, this isn’t just a problem on very hot days. Children have died from heatstroke inside cars when the outside temperature was as low as 60 degrees.

According to an NSC study, there are three primary circumstances resulting in deaths of children in hot cars:

  • A caregiver forgetting a child in a vehicle
  • The child gaining access to an unsupervised vehicle
  • Someone knowingly leaving a child in a vehicle

Is it against the law to leave a child or a pet in a vehicle?

New York State does not have a specific law which makes it illegal to leave a child unattended in a car, however people can still be arrested for doing so. In these cases, the charge is typically “endangering the welfare of a minor.”
On the other hand, there is a law in New York State (AGM § 353-d) prohibiting the confinement of companion animals in vehicles in extreme temperatures. Unfortunately, those found guilty of a violation will only be punished with a fine of not less than fifty dollars nor more than one hundred dollars for a first offense.

Is it legal to break into a vehicle to save a child or pet?

Many people take for granted that the law will protects someone whose actions were necessary to save a life, whether it be a human life or that of a pet. The laws across state lines vary, but in New York, you are not legally allowed to break into a vehicle in order to rescue a pet, instead you must call the police. The current law allows only public officials such as law enforcement and humane officers to legally break into a car to rescue an animal. If you decide to act anyway, the owner of the vehicle can sue you for the cost of repairs to the vehicle.

These situations can be tricky. The first thing you should do is call 911. They will help you evaluate the situation based on how long the child or pet has been left alone, help you identify symptoms of heatstroke, and most importantly, they will send professional help, which could be the difference between life and death.

Take a second look in the back seat

NSC offers a suggestion to parents, pet-owners, and caregivers to help avoid accidentally forgetting your child or pet in the car. Place an object in the backseat so that you are forced to take one last look before existing the car. This can be your purse, briefcase or even your left shoe. When you’re not using the vehicle, keep the doors locked so children cannot gain access. Remember, there is no safe time to leave children alone in the car, even if you are just running a quick errand.

When you leave your child or pet in someone else’s care, you may want to suggest these tips along with a reminder of the extreme danger posted by hot cars.

What if someone else left my child in a hot car and he or she sustained serious injuries?

If you trusted your child to a babysitter, daycare center, or other caregiver and that person put your child at risk by leaving him or her alone in a hot car, they may be liable for damages. If they suffer serious physical injuries or in the worst case scenario lose their life, you may be able to seek compensation from the individual responsible, or in the cases where they are an employee, such as a daycare center, you may also be entitled to compensation from the business.

Helping injury victims in Putnam County for over 40 years

Attorney Greg Bagen has been an advocate for injury victims his whole career. He helps his friends and neighbors in Putnam County to receive the fair compensation they deserve when their serious injuries are caused by someone else’s negligence.

If you’ve been injured, contact us for a free, no-obligation consultation.

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