Injuries in an elementary, middle, or high school setting are alarming, but they’re also common. Estimates are that 9 out of 10 student athletes are injured at some point in their sports career. The CDC reports over 200,000 children are injured on public playgrounds, mainly daycare and school playgrounds.
Playground injuries and sports-related injuries are the most common causes of injuries at school. Others include bullying, slip and fall accidents, bus accidents, food poisoning, exposure to lead or asbestos, and targeted attacks. Most children get through school without any significant injuries, but there’s always that slim chance that you will get a call that something’s happened.
When it’s your child, the statistics don’t matter. You’re scared and angry. You want to know what happened and why someone wasn’t paying closer attention. You want to know what happens next. What does the school plan to do? What are your child’s rights?
Was the Injury Due to an Intentional Act, Negligence, or Clumsiness?
Your child’s rights are determined by the situation. If another child deliberately pushes your child on the stairs and your child falls, that’s an intentional act. If your child is walking up the outside stairs and ice has built up on a wintry morning, the school’s maintenance and grounds crew are negligent for not tending to the ice. If your child is running across the lawn and trips on her own feet, that’s clumsiness.
The school building and water system may also be a problem. If you learn your child has been exposed to high amounts of lead, and lead paint is found on toys, furnishings, or window sills in the school, the school is liable.
A school bus may not be on school grounds, but the bus itself is school property and bound by the same rules and protections as a child is due in a school setting. If a driver is texting and drives off the road, the driver is negligent. If the brakes on the bus fail, the division responsible for bus maintenance and repairs is negligent.
In the school cafeteria, if food is improperly stored and children end up with food poisoning, the school cafeteria’s personnel is to blame. If food is brought in from an outside vendor and is contaminated, it’s also the school’s responsibility to carefully choose vendors. It’s also the vendor’s fault for not following proper food safety measures.
Sports-related injuries can be tricky. It’s very likely you had to sign a waiver stating that you understand the risks of playing sports. There are still situations that make it possible to file a personal injury complaint. Say your child was forced to practice during extreme heat and humidity and warnings were in place that people should stay inside. If your child’s coach forced an outside practice anyway, the school could be liable for not postponing the practice or holding it inside in air conditioning.
What Actions Should You Take?
Before you do anything, talk to the school. Ask to file an accident report. You want to see how they are going to address the issue. You should get a sincere apology, a description of what corrective measures will be taken, and the school district should pay for your child’s medical bills and time you miss from work caring for your child.
If you don’t feel they’ve addressed the issue properly or they spin the blame unfairly onto your child, you should talk to a lawyer for advice. It will be up to you if you file a personal injury claim for your child’s injuries, but it doesn’t hurt to look at the different options and decide what to do next.
There are differences between public schools, in which case you’re battling the government, and private schools where you could be filing a claim against a church or non-profit agency. You’ll have statutes of limitation on how long you can take to file a complaint. You may be able to reach a settlement without ever going to court. This is why it’s important to involve a personal injury attorney who specializes in school injuries.
Jordan, Herington & Rowley can help you understand your child’s options. If your child is injured at school through no fault of his or her own, it’s important to talk to an expert in personal injury law to discuss his/her rights. Don’t worry about the cost. Consultations are free and the firm offers a contingency fee policy. Reach Jordan, Herington & Rowley by calling (303) 647-3026.