It’s the phone call that every parent dreads: Your child has been injured at school. These phone calls come more often than many people might think. An estimated 2.2 million kids ages 14 and under sustain school-related injuries annually in the United States, according to Safe Kids, a nonprofit organization focused on child safety. Many teens are also injured at school and in school-related activities.
Who is responsible if a child is injured at school? The answer to that question is it all depends on where it happened and the circumstances involved. In some instances, schools, school personnel, school volunteers, or even parents of other students may be held responsible for injuries to children. Visitors to campuses may also be liable, depending on how injuries happened. Sometimes companies that manufacture playground and other school equipment may be responsible if their equipment was defective and caused injuries.
Are Schools Legally Responsible for Student Safety?
Schools have a legal duty of care to put reasonable safeguards in place to prevent injuries and other harm to students. This includes maintaining safe premises, properly vetting employees, supervising students, and taking other steps to help ensure the well-being of students. When they fail in that duty, students can get hurt. But whether schools and their employees can be held liable depends on the type of school.
Public Schools and Liability
In Texas, suing a public school or public charter school and its employees or volunteers when injuries happen is extremely difficult. Public schools and their workers are generally protected by state law from being held liable for student injuries when injuries occur within their scope of work.
There are a couple of exceptions, including when an employee uses excessive force in disciplining a student or when a school bus accident is caused by negligence. Another exception is if a student is harmed by a school employee acting outside of their professional duties, such as in cases of sexual abuse. Additionally, public schools may be held liable if a contractor, school visitor, or other third party injures a student while on school grounds. Those individual parties may also be held accountable.
Private Schools and Liability
Private schools don’t have the same protections from liability. Private schools and their employees may be held liable in lawsuits if the circumstances and evidence warrant it. For the school itself to be named in a claim, the private school employee must typically be on duty at the time of the incident.
Liability for student injuries at schools is very complicated in Texas. It’s wise to speak to a personal injury attorney to learn your options if your child was injured at school. An attorney will carefully examine all the evidence in your case to determine how the accident or other incident happened and who may be responsible.
Types of Injuries at Schools
Injuries to students can be intentional or negligent. Intentional injuries are due to violence. Negligent injuries are caused by carelessness by a person or a company such as a product manufacturer. Both types of injuries can result in civil lawsuits. Intentional injuries may also lead to criminal prosecution.
Intentional injuries are those due to violence. According to NEJM Journal Watch, which examined data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, an estimated 4.5 per 1,000 students visit emergency rooms each year because of intentional injuries at school, most of which were caused by assault. The injuries, from most common to least common, include:
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)
- Sprains and strains.
Negligent injuries can happen when someone acts carelessly or recklessly and causes an accident. Here are some ways injuries are caused by negligence:
- School bus crashes from driver negligence
- Playground accidents when children aren’t properly supervised or equipment is defective
- Poorly maintained stairs or handrails that result in falls or a lack of attention to clearing spills, ice, or snow from walking surfaces
- Food that isn’t properly prepared by cafeteria workers, causing food poisoning
- Sports injuries from a lack of supervision or from defective equipment.
What Do I Do if My Child is Hurt by Another Child at School?
If another child intentionally hurts your child through bullying or other violence, the parents of the child who caused the injuries may be held responsible in a legal claim. School personnel may also be liable if they knew about the bullying and did nothing to stop it. Whether a lawsuit against parents or the school would be successful depends upon all the facts involved.
When another child’s carelessness causes injuries to other children, schools, and school personnel may potentially be to blame if they weren’t properly supervising kids and that led to accidental injuries. Schools could possibly be sued for negligence in a personal injury claim depending on all the circumstances.
How Does a Personal Injury Claim Work?
A personal injury claim asks for money for the damages your child and your family have suffered because of their injuries. To be successful, it must be proven that negligence or violent contact caused the injuries. Often settlements can be negotiated in injury claims and you won’t need to go to court. But if the responsible party denies responsibility, there may be no choice but to resolve the claim through a trial. Depending on a child’s age, they may or may not be expected to testify at a trial.
Compensation in personal injury claims can pay for:
- Doctor and other medical expenses related to the injuries
- Time missed at work if you had to stay home to care for your injured child
- Loss of a child’s future wages or future earning potential if they have life-long injuries
- Pain and suffering for physical pain and emotional trauma.
Every case is different. To learn whether you may hold someone legally responsible for your child’s injuries at school, get help from an experienced Texas attorney.
Contact an Experienced Houston Personal Injury Attorney
At the accident and injury law office of Terry Bryant in Houston, we will examine your child’s injury at school to discover whether you have a legal claim. If you do, we’ll fight for your right to hold the responsible party accountable through compensation. To schedule a free, no-obligation consultation about your matter, call our law firm at (713) 973-8888 or toll-free 1 (800) 444-5000 today.