Earlier this month, your South Carolina personal injury lawyers brought to our readers attention the issue of leaving kids in the car during the hot summer months. And despite the efforts of organizations like Kids and Cars and Safe Kids USA, unfortunately, there are still caregivers and guardians leaving their children in hot cars. The earlier entry was centered on the issue of parents and guardians forgetting their kids in the car, but this post and report is to deal with caretakers intentionally leaving children in the car while they run an errand. Last week, an 81-year-old great-grandmother was accused of leaving two children in the car while she went into a Walmart. According to the woman’s lawyer, it was her intention to only be inside the store for a few minutes. But, according to police, the great-grandmother was in the West Ashley store for almost an hour. She was arrested at the store after a Walmart employee discovered the two children, ages eight- and nine-years old, and a dog in a car with rolled up windows. The employee was able to get the kids to unlock the car and escorted them inside the store. Due to this event, the woman was charged with two counts of unlawful conduct toward a child and one count of animal neglect. In Charleston County Magistrate Court, the great-grandmother’s bail was set at $25,000 on each of the two counts of unlawful conduct, setting her total bail at $50,000. The animal neglect charge will be addressed in municipal court.
According to the South Carolina Code of Laws, unlawful conduct toward a child is defined as when a person who has charge or custody of a child, or who is the parent or guardian of a child, or who is responsible for the welfare of a child places the child at unreasonable risk of harm affecting the child’s life, physical or mental health, or safety; do or cause to be done unlawfully or maliciously any bodily harm to the child so that the life or health of the child is endangered or likely to be endangered; or wilfully abandon the child. The statute goes on to state that a person who violates said definition is guilty of a felony and for each offense, upon conviction, must be fined in the discretion of the court or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.
Apart from the legal ramifications, there are the risks of serious injuries or accidental death that arise when leaving a child, or children, alone in an automobile alone, especially during the peak of Summer’s heat. During this time of year, the inside of a car acts like a greenhouse in that it traps hot air within the vehicle and re-radiates it, making hot air hotter. Additionally, children’s bodies heat up as much as five times faster than the average adult’s, putting children at a greater risk of heat stroke.
Heat stroke is a form of hyperthermia in which the body’s temperature is dramatically increased (104 F or higher). Typical symptoms related to heat stroke and other heat-related illnesses are high body temperature, the absence of sweating (with hot red or flushed dry skin), rapid pulse, difficulty breathing, strange behavior, hallucinations, confusion, agitation, disorientation, seizure, and/or coma. Make no mistake about it, heat stroke is a serious medical emergency and without immediate and proper attention it can cause permanent injuries or death.