As parents, we trust that our child’s school will not only provide the education they need for the future but will keep them safe as well. Yet in far too many unfortunate incidents, children get injured while attending school. Tragically, some of these injuries even result in death. At Cooper Schall & Levy, we understand the fear and concern that parents have when their children are hurt on school property. Our experienced personal injury attorneys fight to ensure that any responsible parties are held accountable for your child’s injuries.
What Obligations Do Schools Have To Protect Students From A School Injury?
If your child’s school is private, liability is relatively less difficult to establish than with public schools. Public schools are broadly protected by a legal doctrine known as sovereign immunity. This rule protects the government – including the schools it owns and operates – from certain legal claims.
Sovereign immunity is not an absolute protection against lawsuits. There are instances in which the state has waived its immunity from legal claims, or where statutory exceptions allow for a claim to be made. However, only certain lawsuits may be brought against Pennsylvania public schools, and the maximum liability for such claims is capped at $500,000.
The most common instances in which personal injury claims may be brought against public schools are those involving vehicle-related injuries and property-related injuries. These are two exceptions to the general sovereign immunity rule.
What Is A Vehicle-Related School Injury?
A student who is injured because of negligent operation of a vehicle in possession or control of a public school may pursue a legal claim against the school district. The most common example of this involves school buses. The injured student may have been hurt as either a passenger on the bus or a pedestrian struck by one. Either way, if negligence is to blame for the accident, the district can be sued.
Who Are The Parties That May Be Responsible For A School Bus Accident?
Numerous parties could be to blame. Many times, fault lies with another motor vehicle who ran a stop sign or sped through a school zone and hurt the student. Or, the responsibility may be with a parts manufacturer or third party inspection and maintenance crew whose negligence permitted an unsafe bus to operate.
But most likely, someone working for the school district is to blame. Potential defendants include:
- Careless, distracted, or reckless school bus drivers
- School boards and school districts
- School superintendents
- County governments in which the school is located
What Is A Property-Related School Injury?
No school can completely shield students from every type of accident, injury, or death that can occur on its grounds. We know this all too well as a result of the unfortunate school shootings that have happened throughout the country. Schools are not the sanctuaries that parents often imagine them to be, and teachers and staff simply can’t prevent everything. Some accidents will happen, and the real question becomes whether the school is responsible.
A child who sprains his or her ankle walking downstairs or playing in the gym will not likely be able to pursue a claim against the school district. However, schools are obligated to take reasonable steps to protect student safety, and cannot simply wash their hands of responsibility in every situation. There are certain hazards and dangers that are foreseeable, and schools must do something to eliminate or minimize them. These are some examples of accidents for which your child’s school may be liable:
- A student playing in the gym falls into a concrete wall that is not padded
- Ice or snow on the school grounds causes a slip and fall accident
- Uneven sidewalks that are not closed off or properly marked causes a student to trip and suffer injuries
- Broken, rusty or otherwise dangerous playground equipment that cause injury to a student
- A loose handrail causes a student to fall down the stairs
How Do I Prove The School Is Responsible For My Child’s Injuries?
Establishing the school’s liability requires showing that the school knew, or should have known, about the dangerous condition that harmed your child. If the school is made aware of a hazard on school property but does nothing to fix the problem, it will likely be held liable. The same is true if a hazard could reasonably have been discovered had the school inspected its property.
What Other Requirements Are There To File A Lawsuit?
If a child is injured due to a school’s negligence, there are mandatory notice requirements. These rules apply where the defendant is a government entity such as a school board or county. There are also statutes of limitations that may apply, although when minor plaintiffs are involved these rules can become complicated. Your best bet is to seek legal representation as soon as possible after your child has been injured so you do not miss any legal deadlines or required notices.
Contact A Pennsylvania School Accident Attorney Today
Another reason to act quickly is that evidence can be lost and details forgotten. Lawsuits are best filed as close in time as possible to the actual incident. Be sure to preserve all medical records and ask your child for information like time of day, where the accident happened and the names of potential witnesses. When you are ready, call Cooper Schall & Levy. We will investigate your claims, let you know what rights you and your child have to pursue legal action, and take the next steps with you. Schedule your consultation with us today.