It’s a call no parent wants to get—their child was injured at school. In fact, millions of children are victims of accidents at school every year in the U.S. The steps you take next are crucial. Determining who is liable for a school accident can be challenging.
All schools have a duty to keep children safe. The first step to determining liability for accidents at is school is to identify who is responsible. It must be clarified whether an act leading to an injury was:
- Intentional: An intent of physical harm of one child upon another, such as bullying, can constitute an intentional tort. So can the abuse of a student by an adult employee of the school or district. The district may be liable for not properly training or supervising an employee or stopping a case of bullying or harassment. Or, depending on the circumstances, the parents of a violent student may be liable for an injury their child caused.
- Negligent: Various forms of negligence A school district can be liable for negligence if it didn’t perform a thorough background check on an offending employee. Perhaps it didn’t hire enough staff to provide proper supervision. Negligence can be a factor if there were dangerous conditions that created an unreasonable risk, the person/entity responsible for a duty of care failed to resolve the unsafe condition or provide adequate warning, and the victim couldn’t have known the danger or its risks existed.
Foreseeability and School Accident Liability
Personal injury cases involving schools often consider foreseeability. Could the school or its faculty have foreseen the conditions that led to an accident and corresponding injury? If the school knew of a specific problem but didn’t take action to resolve it or take precautionary measures, it could be liable. For example, a child is injured at the school playground. If the injury was caused by a defect or danger an inspection would have uncovered, or issues were found and nothing was done about them, that can have legal implications for the school.
Who Exactly May Be Liable?
Who is liable for a child’s injury depends on the nature of the incident; here are a few examples:
- School Bus Accidents: The bus driver may be at fault or the district may be liable for improper training, but mechanical failures on board the bus or the negligence of another driver may be a factor.
- Playground Injuries: Poor supervision by teachers could make the school liable, while a defect with equipment at the playground may be the manufacturer’s fault.
- Slip and Fall Accidents: If an injury was caused by cracked floors, loose handrails, or uneven steps, school maintenance staff or an installation contractor/construction company may be liable. If a child falls on ice or snow, liability can depend on whether the school or an outside vendor is responsible for clearing sidewalks.
- Food Poisoning: School personnel can be liable for improper food preparation, but if the food is tainted, an outside manufacturer or vendor may face liability.
- Sports/Recreational Injuries: If a teacher or other faculty member was responsible for supervision at the time and breached their duty, they could be liable. If the injury was caused by defective equipment, a manufacturer or vendor could be to blame.
These aren’t the only possible causes of school-related injuries, but they do demonstrate variables when it comes to liability.
Can I Sue a School Directly?
If your child was injured at a public school, you must file a claim with the school district, which is a government entity. So, you have just 60 to 90 days to do so. The statute of limitations set by your state may be in play as well. A private school, on the other hand, can be sued directly.
In general, schools have some defenses. These include whether a student signed a waiver when playing sports, was injured while on a playground after school hours, and the concept of immunity from liability (public schools). However, immunity can be conditionally waived if claimants follow the rules and act within the allotted amount of time.
Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer
This is crucial step, especially if your child was injured in an accident at a public school (lawsuits against private schools more directly involve state civil courts). The Law Offices of Jacob Emrani has recovered millions of dollars for personal injury clients in California, including those who’ve suffered accidents at school. If your child was injured at a public or private school, we’ll review the case and take the appropriate steps. We’ll also determine liability so you can recover damages and receive proper compensation. Call 888-952-2952 to schedule your free consultation.