Schools have a legal responsibility to provide “reasonable care” for their students, which means they must do everything possible to keep students safe while they are in their custody. When accidents happen at school or during school-sponsored events, parents may wonder if the school can be held liable for their child’s injuries.
Schools can be held accountable if they are negligent in providing a reasonable duty of care for the student. In these cases, parents can pursue legal action against the school to gain compensation for the damage done to their child. However, proving school negligence in New York is complex; therefore, it is helpful to examine the circumstances surrounding when schools are liable for student injuries and how to determine liability.
Types of Student Accidents
The most common types of student accidents that occur during school hours or under school supervision are as follows:
- Slip and fall accidents
- Playground injuries
- Sports injuries
- Bus crashes during school trips
- Injuries caused by other students
- Field trip injuries
- Food poisoning
- School shootings
Slip and fall accidents often occur in gymnasiums and cafeterias due to various unpredictable situations. Spills, leaks, and floors wet from mopping are common causes of slips and falls. Students can also suffer slip and falls due to improperly maintained safety railings, unstable bleachers, and broken equipment. Sports injuries occur during practices, games, and away games and may result from negligent care on the part of a coach or equipment manufacturer. Injuries caused by other students are sometimes accidental, but they can also be intentional forms of harassment or bullying.
When proving school liability, personal injury laws focus on evidence of:
- Inadequate supervision
- Ignoring a known danger
- Inadequate or improper training
- Defective or improperly maintained equipment
- Tainted or improperly handled food
- Negligence or failure to act or provide care
Proving School Liability
Student accidents occur every day, but proving the school is liable for your child’s injuries is a difficult task. There are several elements of New York personal injury law that affect school liability cases.
Private vs. Public Schools
Whether the school is private or public plays a part in the legal options when filing a personal injury suit on behalf of a student. If your student is injured due to the negligence of a private school, you can pursue legal recourse through a personal injury civil suit, just as you would against a person who caused the personal injury.
Public schools are considered government entities, and to file a personal injury claim against a government body, strict procedures must be followed. This is a practice area known as tort law.
A Notice of Claim has to be filed with the court within 90 days of the accident, and a 30 day waiting period must be given for the school to investigate the claim. Tort law is notoriously complex when pertaining to school negligence and an experienced premises liability lawyer is your best option for getting your case heard and receiving compensation.
Time and Location of the Accident
The time and location at which the accident occurs affect the school’s liability in a case. Accidents that occur during school hours or school supervised field trips, sports, or activities fall under the school’s responsibility.
If a student is hurt in a bus accident on a field trip, the school can also be held liable. However, if the accident occurs outside school hours, the institution cannot be held responsible. An example would be if a student played on the school playground on the weekend and suffered a broken arm from falling off the slide.
Foreseeability of the Accident
One of the most deciding factors in school liability cases is whether the accident was foreseeable. As the plaintiff, you need to prove that the school did not protect your child from foreseeable harm. This is quite difficult to prove. For example, a student spills a drink in the cafeteria. The spill causes another student to slip and fall. The question is whether the staff should have noticed the spill and then failed to clean it up, or whether the accident was spontaneous.
In this case, it would be smart to work with a slip and fall attorney to determine whether the school acted reasonably and whether the accident was foreseeable and preventable. Many accidents and injuries occur due to this type of spontaneous, unforeseeable circumstance. New York has routinely held that schools are not liable in such situations.
Let Catalano Law Fight For Your Child
When your child is injured due to a school’s negligence, it is vitally important to reach out to a practiced child injury attorney as soon as possible. The team at Catalano Law is compassionate and knowledgeable in going up against both public and private schools to win fair compensation for your child’s emotional and physical injuries due to their accident.
Call Catalano Law today for a free consultation to determine your legal options and get justice for your child.