Each year more than 14 million injuries to children occur throughout the country. Of these injuries, more than a 3.5 million occur in or around school property. This is expected as children spend half of their days attending school and are involved in many activities at school in which injury may be more prone to occur.
It is reasonable to be concerned as parents and/or guardians should our child be injured at school to want to know who might be responsible for the injury. It depends on several factors and each of these must be analyzed in order to discuss responsibility.
Was there Intentional Harm or Negligence?
This is the basic question that first needs to be addressed in order to determine responsibility for an injury of a child at school.
This could be where an adult, a teacher or school employee abuses a child. Also it is intentional when another student bullies a child and inflicts harm. In the case of a bully inflicting harm, the parents of the bully might be liable for the injuries if they knew of or should have known of the incidents of bullying. The parents must have reasonable notice of such action by their own child and the courts have determined in recent notable cases that the family of a bully can indeed be liable for the actions of a bully. The school, the district and even the state may be liable if they knew or should have known of the harmful conduct but did not act reasonably to stop it.
If an adult at the school, teacher or staff, is the offending party, the school and district and possibly the state might also be liable for failing to stop action that a reasonable person would have been expected to know about and act. There are additional concerns about suits against the school, their employees and even the state, which will likely require a personal injury attorney for handling. These issues of sovereign immunity are landmines in waiting for a claimant to traverse without the proper legal experience. There are some lawyers who have difficulty with these issues so choose your personal injury attorney for experience and knowledge of these.
While at school, the children are under the supervision and responsibility of the school staff, district staff and directors, the state’s education boards and even the chief executive. There are many issues that overlap with intentional harm and negligence, but the most common term used to discover negligence is “accident”. Accidents are usually a result of someone failing in a duty to care and it was not intentional, but nonetheless did cause injury to your child.
There are many examples of what would constitute negligence in a school setting; the following is a partial list of the more common areas of concern:
Accidents involving a school bus might be a result of the negligence of the bus driver or improper training of the driver. It might be a poorly designed bus or malfunctioning vehicle equipment. In some cases it is the negligence of the other driver involved in the collision.
Playground injury: There might have been a lack of adequate supervision by a teacher or even defective playground equipment. Other issues to consider might be the maintenance of the equipment or the design by the manufacturer.
Food poisoning: The school might have improperly prepared or stored the food, The food might be been tainted while in the control of an outside vendor or manufacturer.
Slip and fall: When these occur on school premises there are a myriad of causes that could be investigated; a fall on ice or snow that resulted from the school’s failure to clear sidewalks, or a similar failure by an outside contractor such as a local landscape company. Another example would be a loose handrail that was improperly maintained by the school or possibly improperly installed by
Sports injuries: These injuries could be caused by poor supervision, dangerous equipment provided by the school or outside purveyor.
There are numerous activities and time in which a child might be exposed to such dangerous conditions that injury might occur. How a school reacts to a natural disaster such as tornado might show reasonable negligence in emergency preparedness or lack of planning for evacuations.
Public or Private?
As discussed above, if you are bringing a case against a public school, there are numerous difficult issues to address that do not exist if the school is private. Private schools might be run by a local church or even a not-for-profit organization. There are likely not too many special provisions in your jurisdiction for such schools. However, the state run schools are provided a more stringent process in which to hold them and their employees accountable. Special notice and filing requirements must be adhered to or the claim may be barred for such deficiencies. It is recommended that a family of an injured child seek the advise of a personal injury attorney for these types of claims as it is difficult to navigate negligence and other types of claims on your own.