Common Types of School Injuries and the Legal Grounds to Sue Schools in New York
As Syracuse school injury lawyers, we know there is almost no such thing as a “pure” accident on school grounds. After having represented hundreds of parents and students for school injuries, we know that 80% of “accidents” could be eliminated if teachers and administrators simply did everything reasonably possible to minimize accidents and injuries. What follows is an explanation of the most common types of school injuries and how the school can be found liable for them.A School’s Duty toward Your Child
First, what duty does a school own its students? New York imposes a duty of care upon schools to look out for the safety of the children in their charge. This duty requires the school, and its teachers and administrators, to do everything reasonable to keep children safe and to guard against foreseeable harm. They must make the premises safe by keeping them clear of tripping and slipping hazards. They must keep children safe from each other and from possible abuse and sexual assaults. They must ensure that play and sports are properly supervised and made reasonably safe. The school’s duty continues when the children get on a school bus or engage in extra-curricular activities on school grounds or at school programs off premises. When a school does not fulfill this legal duty, and this causes a child to be injured, that child’s parents or guardians can retain an attorney, whether in Syracuse or elsewhere in New York, to bring a school injury lawsuit on the child’s behalf against the school district to recover fair compensation for the injuries suffered.What are the Most Common Types of Injuries at School?
The great novelist Leo Tolstoy famously began his novel Anna Karenina with these lines: “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way”. One could say something similar about school injuries. All accident-free school days alike, but when a personal injury unfolds at a school, each one is awful in its own way. Every school accident is unique. Nevertheless, while the details of each accident are unique, the most common types of school injuries can be clustered into the following types:
- Playground Injuries: Playgrounds are fun but are also an area where accidents tend to happen. Many playground injuries are caused by improper or lax supervision. Others are caused by poorly maintained playground equipment. A common mistake school administrators make is to fail to distinguish between playground supervisors and play facilitators. Adults can’t both “supervise” and “facilitate” play at the same time. For example, an adult pushing children on swings or playing catch with them is not supervising, rather she is facilitating play. There need to be sufficient adults whose only job on the playground is to supervise. Also, it is far too common to see teachers and others who are supposed to be supervising children on playgrounds instead engaging in chit-chat with each other. Supervisors should not be clumped together where they can talk, but spread out to cover the entire play area. School personnel needs to be trained in playground supervision. Lack of training and lax supervision are a major cause of many school playground accidents.
- Slip and Fall, Trip and Fall: Slip or trip and falls can happen anywhere – in the supermarket, on a sidewalk – but they are very common on school premises. That’s because children tend to run, fool around, be distracted by each other as they move about, and engage in physical fun. However, most slip or trip and falls at school can and should be avoided. For example, rules regarding running in hallways must be enforced. Children quickly figure out whether the rules are actually being enforced. If not, they quickly learn to ignore the rules. Keeping hallways free of tripping hazards, and walkways free of slipping hazards, are a must at school. Broken or missing handrails must be promptly fixed and snow and ice promptly removed. If an injury is caused by the school’s failure to take reasonable measures to correct such problems, the injured student can bring a claim against the school district with the help of a school injury lawyer in Syracuse or elsewhere in New York.
- Fights, bullying, and horseplay: A high percentage of school injuries are caused by children fighting, bullying or engaging in horseplay. Although teachers and administrators don’t have crystal balls to predict which child might strike another child and when, and thus cannot prevent each and every assault in a school yard or classroom, many such injuries can be prevented by promulgating proper rules, enforcing them, using appropriate discipline, and providing proper supervision. Proper supervision means the right number of supervisors per student and strong a supervision policy that is properly implemented. Failures in a supervision system are common. If a school knows or should know that a child has an aggressive or violent nature, the school is required to address the risk through discipline and extra vigilance. If a school knows about a “problem” between two students, it is required to address it, including meeting with parents. If a teacher or administrator sees evidence that a fight or assault is about to happen, they are required to take reasonable measures to stop it.
- Sports Injuries: It is sometimes said that life must be very risky since no one gets out of it alive. Sports are also risky, and much of the risk is unavoidable. Every sport has risks. Every voluntary participant in a sport assumes the risks inherent to the sport. Conversely, the players or participants do NOT assume risks that are NOT “inherent” in the sport, but rather are caused by poor coaching, substandard supervision or poorly maintained fields or equipment. For example, a football player assumes the risk of getting hit in play, but does not assume the risk of being given a faulty helmet, or having a coach who does not explain and enforce anti-concussion rules and protocols, or having to play on a field that is strewn with holes or debris due to neglect. Our school injury lawyers representing injured students in Syracuse would start each sports injury case with a thorough investigation of the cause of the injury,
- School Bus Accidents: Children can be injured in school buses through driver error, improper bus maintenance, and improper or non-existent bus supervision. When students are on a school bus, they are still under school supervision, and the school is responsible for their safety just as they are when the students are in the class room. School bus stops are a frequent area for accidents to occur. Schools are required to properly guard children from the dangers of crossing streets at school crossings and at and around bus stops.
- Sexual Abuse: Most people drawn to teaching and working with children do so because they are truly committed to educating young people, morally, intellectually and physically. But a small minority of adults working in school systems is drawn there for other, more nefarious reasons; sex. It is now a known fact that some adults have a sexual attraction to children or young adults. Their modus operandi is to slowly “groom” these young people, gain their confidence, and make physical inroads, until they can eventually gain sexual gratification from them. Almost nothing could be more harmful to the child or young adult. School administrators are required to carefully screen employees before hiring them for past sexual offenses. They are required to be vigilant of inappropriate relationships between adults and the students. They are required to set up policies and guidelines for preventing and detecting sexual abuse. A school’s failure to take reasonable precautions to prevent sexual abuse of its students at the hands of the adults or even other children is, as it should be, a legally recognized grounds for a claim against the school district in New York.
If your child was injured at school, call our Syracuse school injury lawyers for a free consultation. Don’t wait! Most cases against school districts require legal action to be taken within 90 days of the injury.