Can You Sue a School for Negligence?
Children spend most of their waking hours in school, so concerned parents naturally want to ensure that their children are kept safe. Unfortunately, many schools are the most dangerous place a child can be. Indeed, countless children are injured on school property in falls, violent attacks, and other incidents every year.
At Surasky Law, our Aiken, SC personal injury lawyer meets with parents of all backgrounds who are concerned about their children’s safety. They want to know can you sue a school for negligence when a child suffers injuries as a result of negligence. Please contact us today to discuss your chances of successfully suing a school district.
Examples of Negligence at School
Many children are hurt at school when teachers and school officials fail to exercise reasonable care. This failure qualifies as negligence when it causes injury to a child in a way that should have been foreseeable.
Here are some common ways children are injured by negligence:
Dangerous premises. A child can slip, trip, or fall due to cracked tile or spilled liquids on the floor. Other hazards in school include defective chairs, falling ceiling tile, toxic exposure, and other dangers.
Playground hazards. A school might fail to inspect slides, jungle gyms, and basketball courts to ensure they are safe. Children can be injured during recess or gym.
Attacks by students. Teachers and administrators must take reasonable care to separate children when they are fighting and prevent fights in the first place.
Attacks by members of the public. Schools must be reasonably secure. If staff members see a strange person loitering about the property, they should investigate and, if necessary, call the police. A school might be legally liable if a child is attacked or abducted by a stranger.
Attacks by staff. School staff attacking a child in any way is prohibited. The school might be negligent in how they hire, train, or supervise staff. For example, a school might not have performed any background check.
Sports injuries. Contact sports are inherently dangerous, but this doesn’t mean “anything goes.” Many participants are injured each year by defective safety equipment, failure to follow the rules of the game, or dangerous playing fields.
Food poisoning. Kitchen staff should store and prepare cooked foods in a safe manner. If they fail to, the entire school could become sick.
Bus accidents. A bus driver must use reasonable care when picking up and dropping off children. A dangerous driver could violate safety rules and cause collisions. Similarly, the district must reasonably inspect and maintain its fleet of buses so they are safe to ride in.
Schools do not guarantee that a child will never be injured—and the law doesn’t require that. However, school districts must take reasonable safety precautions.
Why Parents Sue
Many parents are outraged when their child is injured at school. This outrage only grows when a little questioning uncovers a lack of care in how the school is run. For example, it’s only after a child is injured that parents really look at playground equipment or discover that only one teacher was out on recess duty. This is because schools have the responsibility to ensure safety measures are taken.
The primary purpose of filing a lawsuit is to receive compensation to cover things like:
Medical care to treat your child’s injuries
Lost wages, if you missed work to care for your child
Your child’s pain and suffering, along with emotional distress
Many parents want to sue simply to hold the school accountable in a public forum. They want the school to acknowledge that things need to change to protect all students and that accidents like the one that injured their child will never happen again. A lawsuit is a good way to accomplish this goal.
Can You Sue a School for Negligence in South Carolina?
If the school is private, then you can sue them as you would sue any property owner for premises liability. Meet with an attorney to review what happened and identify what evidence you need.
Suing a public school district is different. Generally, school districts are immune from lawsuits. This means you can’t sue them unless they agree to. Fortunately, the South Carolina legislature passed the Torts Claims Act, section 15-78-10, which allows injured victims to sue government agencies like schools in certain situations.
These are special types of lawsuits, so they differ in some ways when compared to lawsuits against private parties, like private schools. Some features you should be aware of:
You cannot receive punitive damages when suing a public school district
There is a cap on the total amount of damages you receive
You have two years to file a lawsuit
You can’t receive prejudgment interest
Only work with an attorney who understands how the South Carolina Torts Claims Act operates. There are key procedural obligations you must follow, and mistakes can hamstring your legal claim. At Surasky Law, we have sued many municipalities and schools, so we know the process very well.
Adults Can Sue, Too
Adults can get hurt on school property, also. For example, you could be a teacher hurt on the property or a parent injured when coming to a school function or sporting event. Even a member of the public hurt by defective bleachers in the gym or a wet spot on the floor could sue for injuries.
If you are a teacher, you should review your collective bargaining agreement. It could include important information about your rights in the event of a workplace injury. You also could qualify for workers’ compensation benefits. Our firm can review your agreement and help you understand what compensation you might receive.
Should You Speak with an Aiken Personal Injury Attorney?
Schools sit at the center of most communities. It is vital that they provide a safe learning environment for students and all staff. If you or a child was hurt, please contact Surasky Law today. We can discuss your legal rights in a free consultation.