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Can You Sue a School for Injury to a Child?

On Behalf of | Oct 1, 2021 | Personal Injury

Fall is filled with back-to-school nights and yellow school buses. But, as children run and play during recess and P.E., they may be more likely to injure themselves. If your child comes home from school with an injury, it’s important to understand who is liable. Here, the expert attorneys at Peter Angelos Law explain the several factors that can impact a lawsuit if you or your child is injured on school grounds.

Intentional vs. Negligent Acts

It is important to determine if the act that resulted in an injury was intentional or caused by negligence. Intentional torts may include instances of bullying or abuse. In these cases, the parent of the child causing the bullying or the adult abuser could be held liable. However, a lawsuit may be brought against a school in these instances if they were aware of the abuse or bullying and did not stop it.

Injuries caused by negligence may result in a lawsuit. However, schools must be proven to have been grossly negligent due to the concept of sovereign immunity.

Sovereign Immunity & Lawsuits Against a School

In many instances, government agencies, such as state and federal governments, have immunity from lawsuits. This immunity is called sovereign immunity when applied to federal and state governments, and can also be called governmental immunity when applied to city, county, and other smaller governments.

A public school system is typically considered an agency of the local municipal government, and therefore would be immune to lawsuits. However, most agencies make exceptions to immunity, allowing for lawsuits to be brought against them under specific conditions.

Instances When A Lawsuit May Be Brought Against A School

There are a few instances in which a lawsuit may be brought against a school for an injury on its premises. If the injury resulted from negligence, the negligence must be “gross,” or severely, negligent. Another instance that would allow a lawsuit to be brought against a school is if the municipality has purchased insurance to cover the type of lawsuit.

Aside from these overarching guidelines, the exact guidelines that would allow an individual to sue a school vary from state to state. However, state governments set the rules for when smaller agencies can be sued, so the rules do not vary by school districts within a particular state.

Examples of Gross Negligence

When children are at school, parents trust the school to protect them. Unfortunately, there are instances in which a school fails to do so and a child ends up injured. With sovereign immunity, a lawsuit can be brought against a school if the gross negligence of the school resulted in an injury. This can include the following:

  • School bus accidents due to
    • Negligence of the bus driver or other school district employee,
    • Improper training of the bus driver by the school district, or
    • The failure of the school district to maintain or repair buses.
  • Playground accidents due to
    • Lack of adequate supervision by teachers, or
    • Defective playground equipment resulting from improper maintenance by the school.
  • Food poisoning incidents due to
    • Improper food preparation or storage by school personnel.
  • A slip and fall on school premises due to
    • A loose handrail that was improperly maintained by the school, or
    • A fall on snow or ice that resulted from the school’s failure to clear sidewalks.

Shorter Deadlines & Extra Steps When Bringing a Lawsuit Against a School

The statute of limitations for when a plaintiff can sue for a personal injury caused by a school is much shorter than that of other personal injury claims, typically six months to two years. In addition, most states also require the plaintiff to notify the responsible agency of the intention to sue before a case can begin. Depending on the state, this may require the plaintiff to identify and notify the responsible agency that a lawsuit is being brought against them as well as disclose the details of the suit within six months.

Premises Liability and Negligence

Sovereign immunity rules may allow for premises liability lawsuits to be brought against a school in instances where the hazard resulted from extreme negligence or if the school system carries applicable insurance.

Some of the more frequent lawsuits brought against school systems include negligent supervision, meaning that the injury occurred due to an individual failing to properly supervise schoolchildren.

Negligence claims are treated the same as premises liability claims under sovereign immunity.

Seeking Legal Guidance When Bringing A Lawsuit Against a School

Due to the complexity of sovereign immunity, it is important to seek legal counsel when bringing a lawsuit against a school. In many instances, schools with an applicable insurance policy will choose to settle out of court. Regardless, choosing to seek guidance from an experienced attorney will allow you to receive compensation for your injury.

Consult With An Experienced Personal Injury Attorney At Peter Angelos Law

When we send our children off to school in the morning, we expect them to return safely in the afternoon. If an accident occurs and your child is injured, you deserve to be compensated. Due to the complicated nature of sovereign immunity, it is important that you have a trusted legal team in your corner. Consult with a personal injury attorney at Peter Angelos Law today. Call (410)-763-4397 today or fill out the form below.