Schools and school districts can be held liable on a number of legal grounds for injuries suffered by students. Discussed below are the main types of cases injured students and their parents bring against schools and school districts.
School Negligent Supervision Claims
Almost any time a student is hurt as school, one question that comes up is; did the school provide adequate supervision? If not, the school can be held liable for the student's injuries under a legal theory of "negligent supervision". Just as a parent has a duty to supervise his or her children when they are in his or her custody, the school has a duty to do the same when children are turned over to its custody. Therefore, when a child is hurt on a playground, or in a classroom, or lunchroom, or is assaulted or beat up by another student, or is injured when engaged in horseplay, a lawyer's thorough investigation may reveal that the school was not following even its own rules regarding the ratios of adult monitors to students, or that the adult monitors or teachers were distracted and not properly supervising, or that the school did not have adequate safety rules in place for supervising its students.
Claims against the School for Student-on-Student Assaults.
When a student is assaulted, punched, beaten up, tripped up, or otherwise deliberately injured by another student, one issue that arises is, again; was there adequate supervision? If the assault was sudden and unexpected so that no amount of supervision could have prevented it, generally the school cannot be held liable. But even when the assault itself is sudden, sometimes the school can be held liable because the assailant was a known troublemaker, and the school failed to discipline him or otherwise correct his behavior. Or the school might be held liable because it knew or should have known that there was trouble brewing between the assailant and the victim from past skirmishes or verbal threats, yet failed to act to prevent the attack. The bottom line is that the school has a duty to take reasonable and measures to prevent injuries to its students, including injuries inflicted by other students. Note, however, that if the injured student voluntarily participated in a fight, generally he can't sue for the resulting injuries.
School Bus Accidents.
School buses can injure students by striking or running them over when the students are pedestrians, or by driving in such a manner as to cause the students to fall from their seats, or by causing collisions, or by picking students up or dropping them off at dangerous stops. Bus drivers and bus monitors can also cause injuries by failing to properly monitor the students during the bus ride and thereby allowing students to injure one another through horseplay or even assault. In all these circumstances, the school can be held liable for the negligence of the bus driver or bus monitors.
Student Street Crossing Accidents
Schools often assume the duty of providing safe crossings for their students in the near vicinity of the school by way of crossing guards. The school can be held liable for the crossing guards' negligence in permitting students to cross when it is unsafe to do so.
School Sports Injuries
If a student voluntarily agrees to participate in a sport that has known risks, then he cannot sue the school for the types of injuries that are "part of the game" or are inherent risks to the sport. For example, generally a student can't sue the school for an injury he receives when he is tackled during a football game --- tackling is part of the game of football, and one of the risks of being tackled is that you can get hurt. However, some sports injuries are not caused by risks inherent to the game, but rather by poor supervision of the players, or by careless design or maintenance of the playing field. For example, a football player injured when he steps into a deep hole left by a school maintenance crew on the field may have a claim against the school for failing to safely maintain the playing field.
School Gym Injuries
If gym class is mandatory, then it cannot usually be said that the student "voluntarily assumed the risks" of gym. That is why gym accidents often make better cases against schools than sporting accidents where the student voluntarily agreed to participate in the sport. Nevertheless, the school cannot be held liable for a gym injury unless it was "negligent", and its negligence caused the accident. Examples of school negligence that can cause gym accidents are: Providing inadequate supervision; the gym teacher may have failed to adequately instruct the students on how to perform the gym activity; or the equipment provided was not safe and adequate (e.g., should helmets have been provided for a certain activity?).
The Auburn, New York school accident attorneys of Michaels & Smolak have recovered millions of dollars for clients injured in school accidents and for other injuries to cover their medical bills, lost earnings, pain and suffering, and more. If your child has been injured in a school or sporting accident, CONTACT US for a free consultation with an experienced lawyer who can inform you of your legal rights and maximize your compensation.