If your child is injured due to someone else’s negligence while at school, you can take legal actions to pursue compensation and hold the negligent party responsible. Schools owe their students a duty of care, and they should take steps to ensure your child is safe from injury while in their care. However, it is not uncommon for schools to fail in this regard and for children to get injured while at school. Negligent security, improper school maintenance, inattentive or improperly trained staff, bullying or school shootings, and other negligent conditions can lead to various serious injuries.
Examples of Accidents Where the School May Be Liable
Your child can be injured in a number of ways while at school, and many different parties may be liable (i.e. the school, school staff members, the school district, and third-party manufacturers or vendors). Here are some examples of how your child could sustain an injury due to negligence.
- School bus accidents, caused by improper driver draining, bus driver or employee negligence, or failing vehicle equipment.
- Food poisoning incident, caused by improper food storage or preparation by school staff or contaminated food from a school-approved vendor or manufacturer.
- Playground or gym injury, caused by faulty equipment or parts, negligent supervision, or improper maintenance or design.
- Exposure to asbestos, caused by the school district’s failure to properly address and remove the substance or an older school building not being closed down.
- Slip and fall accidents, caused by water or ice on the school’s sidewalks, spills inside the school building, defective stairs or floors, or loose handrails.
- Injuries sustained during a natural or man-made disaster, caused by negligent security, inadequate safety and emergency planning, or failure to properly evacuate or shelter in place.
- Sports injuries, caused by substandard equipment or a lack of supervision by school personnel. It is important to note that even if you signed a waiver with the school concerning sports accidents, you may still be able to pursue legal action. Waivers may not prevent you from suing for injuries caused by gross negligence, recklessness, or illegal acts. If you did sign a waiver, your attorney can review it and advise you concerning how ironclad it is.
If your child is hurt at school, you may be wondering who is liable and what you can do to determine liability. Here are a few steps you can take after their accident.
- Seek medical attention. No matter how big or small the injury is, you should take your child to see their pediatrician or to urgent care. Be sure to save the medical bills and paperwork as this can be used to calculate your damages.
- Contact their school and/or teacher. You should talk with the school administration and your child’s teacher to ensure an accident report is (or was) filed.
- Collect evidence. Even if you don’t bring a claim forward immediately photos of the injuries and the accident site are important. You should also ask for security footage, witness statements, and/or a copy of the school’s report.
- Contact our attorneys. Depending on whether your child attends a public, private, or charter school, the legal actions you can take and the claims process will be different. An attorney will understand the best course of action for your case as well as the rules and regulations governing the situation. They can also help you investigate the accident, determine who is liable, and help you fight for fair compensation.
Suing a Public School vs. a Private School
If your child was injured while at a private school, you can sue the school directly in civil court. You should also review the school’s policies and handbook to ensure you follow their accident reporting guidelines. It is also important to note that the filing process may be different and more complex if the school receives government funding.
Public schools are considered governmental entities, and there are different procedures for filing a claim against government agencies. To begin the process, you must first file a “Notice of Claim” within 6 months of your child being injured. The claim can be filed as a letter or form and should include:
- Your name and address
- The name and address of your attorney (if you have retained one)
- The reason you are filing a claim including the date and place it occurred
- The name of the employee(s) involved in causing the injury or damage (if known)
- A description of the injury, damage, or loss incurred
- The amount of damages calculated (if the total is less than $10,000)
If you do not include all the required information, your claim may be dismissed. It is also important that you submit your claim within the 6-month deadline, or you risk having your claim dismissed. After you file your claim with the school district, they should respond (with a denial or acceptance of the claim) within 45 days. The district may:
- Approve the claim, partially or in its entirety by offering a settlement.
- Reject the claim.
- Ask for more information concerning the incident or details, which may mean you need to amend your claim.
If the school district denies the claim, you can file a lawsuit in civil court. If they rejected the claim by failing to respond, you have two years to file a suit. However, a suit must e filed within 6 months of a claim that was formally rejected.
If your child has been injured while at school, contact Eliot Reiner, APLC. Our personal injury attorneys can advise you of your legal options and help you gather evidence, establish liability, and develop a solid case strategy. To schedule a case consultation, call (916) 778-3228 or complete this form.