Liability and School-Related Accidents
Some school injuries arise from accidents. Kids play, they fall down, and they get injured. Other child injuries arise from abuse, neglect, and negligence. When accidents happen because of someone’s malicious or negligent actions, families have the right to file a claim against the responsible party.
Possible Liable Parties in School-Related Injury Cases
Many different types of injurious incidents can take place during school-supervised activities. Unaddressed leaks can cause fall hazards in bathrooms and other spaces. Improperly maintained playground equipment can cause falls, lacerations, and other injuries. Poor supervision can lead to instances of school violence and bullying. Inadequate hiring practices can leave students in the hands of abusive and incapable teachers. Other school-related injuries may arise from defective sports equipment, bus accidents, and poor sanitation practices.
Cruel punishment methods can leave a child with physical and emotional pain. One Arizona case involved a school that left a child in a “seclusion room” for hours at a time without notifying the parents. The case led to new legislation governing the use of seclusion and restraint practices in the school system.
In these and other injury claims, the following parties may face liability:
- The public school district. Public schools are responsible for addressing foreseeable hazards. They should provide adequate supervision during normal operating hours and school-sponsored events, maintain a safe premises, vet employees, and follow all applicable disciplinary regulations.
Cases against public schools and school districts fall under the category of government claims. Unless the school committed an act of gross negligence, it may seek immunity from lawsuits. Plaintiffs must file claims against public schools within a year of an incident.
- Private schools. Private schools do not enjoy the same legal protections as public schools. Parents may file a claim against the school for injuries resulting from the school’s failure to reasonably protect and serve its students.
- In some cases involving student bullying and bus accidents, an outside party may face responsibility for the injuries. A violent student’s parents may be liable for a child who attacks another during school hours. A passenger vehicle driver may be responsible for the injuries sustained during a bus accident on or off of school property. A teacher who contributes to an injury outside of his or her normal scope of employment may also face liability.
- Some injuries arise from the use of unsafe products the school could not have foreseen. When defective shop tools, bus components, playground equipment, and other products cause harm, the manufacturer or outside maintenance team may bear responsibility for the injurious outcome.
School-related injury claims are often complex. To prove liability, the injured party must prove that the defendant owed the student a duty of care, breached that duty, and that the failure caused the student’s injuries. In general, if a school failed to take reasonable precautions to protect student safety, the school should have reasonably foreseen the risk, and the school’s lack of protections led to the student’s injuries, it is responsible for the resulting harm.
In some claims, multiple parties may bear responsibility for a child’s injuries. Every case is different. To better understand liability in a specific instance, speak to a local school injury attorney. Your attorney can help you identify the school’s responsibilities and take the next steps in filing a formal claim.