Schools have a duty to provide a safe place for children to learn. However, sometimes things go awry and a child gets hurt in the classroom or on the playground. If the injury is severe enough, you may want to pursue a lawsuit to obtain compensation for medical bills and other damages, but can you really sue a school for your child's injuries?
Are There Grounds for Litigation?
Whether or not you can sue the school for damages hinges on the circumstances surrounding your child's injury. If the child is hurt because of the kid's or your actions, then it's unlikely you'll have grounds for a lawsuit.
An example of this would be failing to provide the school with insulin for a diabetic child. If the child experiences acute hyperglycemia, becomes confused and falls down the stairs, you could be found responsible for the incident because you failed to provide the school with the tools needed to properly care for your child.
On the other hand, if you do provide the school with the child's medication and the staff fails to administer it at an appropriate time, then you may have cause for a lawsuit if the child is injured as a result.
Intentional vs. Negligence
Another issue that must be considered when determining if you have a case against the school is whether the injuries were inflicted intentionally or occurred because of negligence on the part of the school.
In general, you cannot sue the school for damages if someone at the school intentionally hurts your child. For example, another child gets mad at your kid and begins hitting him or her. Unless a teacher or administrator knew the child was going to attack your kid and did nothing to stop the incident, the school will likely not be found liable for your child's injuries even though the incident occurred at the school. In this case, you would need to go after the bully or the child's parents to recover damages.
However, if the bully is on record as threatening your child and the administrators failed to take measures to reduce the person's access to your kid, then you may be able to collect damages for your kid's injuries resulting from the assault.
Negligence encompasses the school's failure to take proper precautions which leads to your child being injured. Some examples of negligence includes
- Not having enough adults around supervising kids
- Playground equipment is not maintained in a safe manner
- Improper food storage leading to food poisoning
- Sidewalks and stairs not properly cleared of ice and snow
- Leaving cabinets containing hazardous substances unlocked
- Defective protection gear allows for a sports injury
- Failing to do background checks on employees and staff
The critical takeaway here is that to have a valid case for damages the school's actions must have contributed in some way to the incident. If the school couldn't have predicted or prevented an incident from occurring, then you likely won't prevail in a lawsuit and vice versa.
Suing a Public vs. Private School
Suing a public school for compensation for your child's injuries is not the same as suing a private school. Private schools are owned and operated by for-profit and non-profit organizations like churches and corporations. There are no special steps you need to take to file a lawsuit against them save for contacting a personal injury attorney for assistance.
Public schools, on the other hand, are government institutions. As such, school districts have a certain amount of immunity against lawsuits like every other government agency. You can still sue for damages. However, you are required to follow a specific process to do so.
Each state is different, but typically you must first submit a letter to the school district outlining your complaint. Then you must allow the agency time to investigate the issue. The only time you can proceed with a lawsuit is if the school denies your claim or it doesn't respond to your letter within a certain time period, which can be anywhere from 90 to 180 days from the date the claim was filed.
Possibly the primary difference between suing a public vs. private school is you have a very limited amount of time to file a claim with a public school district. You generally have 60 to 90 days from the time the incident occurs to file a claim against a public school. With private schools, you are only limited by the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury lawsuit. Depending on which state you live in, you may have between 1 to 6 years to file a suit.
Failing to pursue an injury case within the allotted time period can cause you to lose your right to sue for damages. Therefore, it's important to work with a personal injury attorney who can help guide you through the process to recover the compensation you need to help your child heal. Find more info about pursuing a personal injury case by researching and consulting attorneys.