It’s the call that every parent dreads. A call from your child’s school informing you that your child has been injured in an accident. Unfortunately, these calls occur far too often. When this happens, the question we are most often asked is whether the school can be held liable for your child’s injuries? The short answer to this question is “maybe.”
Schools owe a duty to exercise reasonable care to ensure that their students don’t get injured. This duty includes the duty of supervision, but it also goes much further. Schools also have to ensure that the school premises are reasonably free from hazards that could cause injury to its students.
What Factors are Considered in Determining School Liability for a Student’s Injury?
There are a number of factors that will be considered in determining whether the school is liable for your child’s injury. Some of these factors are:
Did the injury occur on school grounds: If your child was injured off school property (while walking to school, at the bus stop, etc.), or left school property and was injured, the school will likely have no liability for the injury. Of course, this depends on the age of the child and school rules, as the school does owe a duty to properly supervise your child. If the school fails to properly supervise your child, and an injury occurs (whether on school property or not), the school may still be liable for your child’s injuries. NOTE: The duty the school owes your child applies even when your child is on a school bus.
Did the injury involve a school employee: If a school employee injured your child, the school can be held liable for your child injuries. If it was an intentional injury, the school may be liable for failing to conduct proper background checks or failing to properly train and supervise the employee. If it was not intentional, the school may still be held liable for the negligence of its employee.
Was the injury the result of a hazard on school property: If your child is injured due to a hazard on school property, such as a poorly maintained playground, staircase, etc., then the school may be held liable for your child’s injury. As with any hazard, however, you will need to show that the school had notice of the hazard prior to the accident. For example, a school will not be liable if your child slips on juice spilled by another student moments before the fall.
Did the injury occur due to a sporting activity: If your child was injured during an organized sporting activity, such as football or basketball, the school will likely have no liability. The school may be liable if it can be shown that it was due to gross negligence in the supervision of the students. There may also be a waiver issue if one was signed by the parents.
These are just a few of the factors looked at in determining school liability.
Is it Difficult to Sue a Public School?
Public schools fall under the doctrine of “sovereign immunity.” This means that individuals are generally precluded from suing a public school, as it is an agency of the state government. In the State of Florida, however, this immunity has been waived in certain cases. Pursuant to Florida statute 768.28, sovereign immunity is waived for personal injuries caused by the negligent actions of the state committed within the course and scope of carrying out official government acts. In other words, if a public school or any of its employees were negligent and the negligence occurred while the school was open, then the public school can be sued for personal injuries.
There is one limitation that will apply to such actions, and there are also several procedural hurdles that must first be satisfied before you can sue a public school for personal injuries. Unfortunately, under the statute, a cap has been placed on the damages that can be recovered against a public school. The maximum amount that an individual can recover is $200,000. If more than one student is injured in a particular accident, the most that can be recovered is a total of $300,000, which would then be split among all injured parties, whether there are only two injured students or 20.
In addition, in order to file a lawsuit against a public school, you must first file a Notice of Claim with the State of Florida within 3 years of the date of accident (the statute of limitations on a negligence claim is 4 years). It is only then if the State denies the claim, or after 6 months goes by without a response, can you then file your lawsuit against the school.
If you have questions about your Florida accident case, you can download our Free Reports:
which are available on our website, or you can click the link provided. You can also contact us at (813)419-3866 to talk directly to a Ruskin personal injury attorney now.