Tri-City Herald: We can’t expect others to save us from ourselves

One of the unfortunate things about life is that not all of us live it unscathed.

One of the saddest occurrences is when a young life is cut short or severely impaired because of an accident.

We all can probably think of a classmate, friend or relative who was hurt or even killed doing something we enjoyed as kids. Inherent risks exist in even the simplest of childhood pleasures: pedaling a bike, climbing a tree, riding a pony.

Or sledding down a snow-covered hill.

Such is the case of a Tri-City boy, then 10, who was enjoying a snow day on Carmichael hill, a well-loved sledding spot in Richland.

Thousands of children spanning generations have taken to the slope behind the middle school to enjoy some of our rare days of snow. One day in 2012, school was closed because of an ice storm. The youngster, who was at the hill with a parent, crashed into a concrete barrier outside a baseball dugout at the bottom of the hill. The boy suffered severe injuries and was flown to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

Recently, the parents of the boy filed a $10 million claim against the Richland School District. The parents claim the boy, who did not attend Richland schools, suffered a brain injury that will affect him the rest of his life. His medical bills total $250,000 to date, according to the claim. The school district has two months to respond or settle before the parents can file a lawsuit.

Our readers were quick to react — worried that the sledding hill could be closed for good. Many were upset that the parents did not take personal responsibility for their child. Other jurisdictions across the country are banning sledding on public property out of fear of lawsuits and financial claims. Our community has been very vocal that the Richland School District and others should not follow suit.

While we dislike blaming a victim, this was an accident — plain and simple. A parent chose to take a child to a sledding hill. Unfortunately, the result was not the usual fun day ending with hot cocoa, it was something horrific and heart-breaking

But that doesn’t automatically make it the school district’s fault.

Kids get hurt doing fun things. Adults get hurt doing fun things. Most of us can think of times we survived a close call. Our parents were usually right when they told us not to do certain things, but we felt the need to test limits. And, in other cases, our parents were willing participants, taking us sledding or skiing or swimming or on a vacation visit to a zip line or a horseback ride or a fishing boat.

Entities need to be held responsible for negligence, but that doesn’t mean there is always someone or something to blame.