Holding Schools Liable for Student Injuries Can be Done, But It’s Trickier Than Most People Realize.
School injuries do happen. If your child gets injured at school, know your rights! Contact Rasansky Law Firm to discuss your potential case at no charge. 214-651-6100
Almost all parents entrust schools with the care of their children 180 days a year or more. There are about 50 million school-aged children in the United States, and several million of these students experience a school injury in any given year. In fact, 80% of elementary school students visit a nurse every single year for treatment necessitated by a school injury (typically a school nurse, not an emergency room nurse).
School injuries occur for a number of reasons. Children are notoriously unaware of danger and can end up in a dangerous situation in the blink of an eye. Injuries at school can come in many forms from minor cuts and bruises to serious injuries requiring immediate emergency care. Even during a lapse of only a few seconds with adult supervision, children can be injured. The most common types of school injuries include:
- School crossing injuries
- Playground injuries
- School bus Injuries
- Gym/P.E. class injuries
- Intentional injuries inflicted by bullies
- Injuries caused by defective or poorly-maintained equipment
Many school injury accidents can be traced to the fault of the school, typically through the negligence of an employee such as a gym teacher or a maintenance employee. A gym teacher, for example, might entrust supervision of a class to an older student who encourages bullying, or a maintenance employee may neglect to repair defective playground equipment.
Forms of Liability
Various forms of liability are possible depending on the circumstances of the injury:
- Negligent supervision: When you place your children in the care of a school, you have a legal right to demand that they supervise both your child and anyone else who might injure your child if not properly supervised. You might sue the school, for example, for allowing a bully to injure your child.
- Negligent hiring and training: You might claim negligent hiring if, for example, your child was injured in a school bus accident caused by an intoxicated bus driver with a previous DUI.
- Negligent equipment maintenance: This might apply if, for example, a collapsing bleacher injures your child at a pep rally.
- Premises liability: Every property owner has the responsibility of ensuring a reasonable degree of safety for guests on their property. Even a guest on school property (such as a parent) might sue the school for falling down a flight of stairs after a loose handrail broke free.
- Product liability. The manufacturer of a defective product, such as a defective trampoline, might be liable if its defect was the cause of a student injury.
Public Schools and the Sovereign Immunity Problem
Sovereign immunity is a legal principle that prevents a government or a government official from being sued for damages without government consent, on the grounds that any damages would have to be paid out of taxpayer-supplied funds (if a government is held liable) or that it would interfere with the independent judgment of a government official (if an individual government official is held liable).
Although the federal government and many states allow themselves to be sued for personal injury, in Texas a successful personal injury lawsuit against a public school or an employee acting within the scope of duty is nearly impossible unless the injury arose from the operation of a motor vehicle (a school bus crash, for example). In certain cases, such as discrimination against the disabled, it may be possible to invoke federal law to justify a lawsuit.
Since private schools do not enjoy sovereign immunity protection, they can be held liable for personal injury damages without many of the barriers that plague personal injury lawsuits against public schools. Under Texas personal injury law, a private school can usually be held liable for the actions of its employees if that act was wrongful and if the employee was on-duty at the time of the incident that caused the student’s injury.
Waivers of liability are usually contained in the forms you sign before a child engages in a risky activity, goes on a field trip, etc. Although a properly drafted liability waiver can prevent parents from suing the school even when it is negligent, these waivers apply only to the parents’ own claims against the school; reimbursement for medical expenses for their child, for example. They do not protect the school against claims asserted on behalf of the child for pain and suffering and similar harms.
Contact a Dallas School Injury Lawyer Today!
If your child has suffered an injury in school or at a school-related function (on a school bus, during football practice or on a field trip, for example), he/she may be eligible for compensation. Contact an experienced Dallas school injury lawyer today. Explore your options with our experienced Dallas personal injury lawyers with a free initial consultation. We always work with clients on contingency, meaning there is no out of pocket expense up front and attorney fees are only paid if and when your case is won.