Who is Legally Responsible If My Child is Injured At School?
Can A School District Be Sued For Injuries To Students?
Parents know how active and energetic children can be, and that tendency doesn’t necessarily change just because children are at school, especially with playtime and physical education programs. On the playground during recess they play kick ball and dodge ball, or challenge each other to contests on the monkey bars. As children grow older their sporting activities become both more organized and more dangerous — football, soccer, basketball, baseball. Injuries to children are often unavoidable, but when they happen at school, can the school district be liable?
If your child is injured while at school or while involved in a school activity, determining who might be responsible for that injury is often a difficult question. Even if the school or a school employee didn’t directly cause your child’s injury, the school district might still be legally responsible. (Get the basics on Proving Fault in Injury Cases.)
For example, perhaps another student threw a ball at your child on the playground. Your first inclination might be to assume that the other student, and not the school district, is legally responsible for your child’s injury. But that is not always the case. Perhaps a teacher failed to ensure that the ball was properly locked in the closet. Maybe the offending student had a propensity for aggressive behavior toward other students, and the school district failed to properly supervise this behavior.
Similarly, perhaps your child was injured in a school bus accident caused by the driver of another car. Even though you might bring a claim against the other driver for causing the accident, the school district might also be negligent and might share some level of legal responsibility for your child’s injuries.
If you believe the school district might be responsible for your child’s injury, one of the remedies that may be available to you is to bring a civil suit in court against the school district. The lawsuit will seek personal injury damages(meaning compensation) for all losses related to your child’s injuries. However, suing a school district is usually permitted only under very limited circumstances.
The School District Usually Has Sovereign Immunity
School districts, like the federal government and all branches and agencies at the state, county, and municipal level of government, are entities known as “political subdivisions.” In all states, political subdivisions enjoy what is called “sovereign immunity.”
Generally speaking, this means that in most situations the government entity and its employees are immune from lawsuits except under very specific circumstances. The good news is that most states allow at least some types of lawsuits against school districts for injuries to students. The bad news is that there are often very specific and tedious procedures you are required to follow before you can even file the lawsuit. Failing to follow these procedures can result in an immediate dismissal of your lawsuit, or your lawsuit might even be barred altogether.
School injury settlements should not be handled without legal representation. If you have a child that has been injured while at school or on school campus contact a personal injury lawyer before you give any statements or accept any settlement offers.