Schools have a responsibility to keep the children entrusted to them safe. Sometimes teachers, administrators, or other staff members fail to fulfill this responsibility, causing serious harm to students. For example, a school may fail to intervene to resolve bullying and other forms of violence. Some other causes of injuries related to attending a school include:
Slip and falls on poorly maintained school property
Accidents involving defective equipment at the school
Injuries while participating in school sports
Field trip injuries
Accidents involving school buses
When a student suffers injuries, their parents may want to pursue a claim for compensation against anyone who was at fault. They generally would need to show that the person or entity being sued failed to use the appropriate level of care under the circumstances, and this caused their child’s injuries. Damages available in these cases may compensate a child and their family for both economic and non-economic forms of harm. Economic damages would include medical expenses for treating the injury, as well as any costs of future treatment. Non-economic damages would include pain and suffering, emotional distress, and other intangible harm suffered by the child.
Claims Involving a Public School
Parents of a child who attends a public school may need to meet requirements distinctive to suing a government entity. One of these requirements is submitting a notice of claim to the school district or another appropriate government agency. Parents generally cannot file a lawsuit in court against a school district until they go through this administrative process. The notice of claim provides information such as the events leading to the accident, the injuries that the child suffered, and the compensation sought for the injuries. If the school district denies the claim or does not respond within the legally required time, the parents can move forward with a lawsuit.
A notice of claim may need to be filed within a relatively short time period, much shorter than the standard statute of limitations for bringing a personal injury lawsuit. More substantive restrictions on liability for injuries may apply as well. Rules for suing a school district vary significantly depending on the state and the specific events giving rise to the claim.
Talk to an Attorney
If they are considering suing a school district, parents may want to consult an attorney who is familiar with these cases and who can assess the strength and value of their claim.
Suing Defendants Other Than Schools
Often, the school is not the only party at fault for a school-related accident. Parents might have claims against other parties under varying legal theories. This can help maximize their compensation or provide an alternative if a school district is shielded from liability under the circumstances of the accident. For example, parents might have a claim against the parents of a bully who injured their child under the parental responsibility law in their state.
Meanwhile, an accident caused by a defective product might lead to a products liability claim against the manufacturer of the product. These cases usually rely on strict liability rather than negligence, which means that the care used by the manufacturer does not determine liability. Instead, parents would need to prove that a defect in the product caused the injuries.
Types of Defects
Manufacturing defects: errors in the process of making a product
Design defects: problems with how the product was meant to be made
Marketing/warning defects: a lack of proper instructions or safety warnings
In another situation, an accident on a field trip or another excursion to property outside the school might lead to a premises liability claim against the business in control of the property where the accident occurred. This would require showing that the property owner failed to address a hazard on its property of which it was aware or reasonably should have been aware. Premises liability cases often arise from slippery surfaces, uneven pavement, and other conditions that cause slip or trip and falls.
These are just some examples of potential defendants. An attorney can advise parents on the full range of people and entities who might be brought into a lawsuit, based on the facts surrounding an accident and the applicable laws.