What to do if Your Child is Injured at School
California public school systems provide a means through which you can sue the government if your child is injured at school due to the school’s negligence.
However, bringing a personal injury claim against the government is not the same as suing a private party. In fact, legal cases arising from school-related injuries can be exceptionally complex.
An experienced personal injury attorney can represent you in a personal injury lawsuit against the government. Your attorney has considerable resources and negotiating skills that can be put to work on your injured child’s behalf.
Personal Injury Claims Arising From Negligence
If your child is injured by the negligence of the school, he or she is entitled to compensation for any injuries inflicted by that negligence.
When school injuries occur because of the school’s negligence, a claim must be filed in accordance with specific deadlines and filing requirements.
There are also predetermined steps you must follow to complete a claim, and you may be required to submit time-specific information and detailed reports in support of your claim.
What Is Sovereign Immunity
The California Tort Claims Act (CTCA) states that, as a general rule, “a public entity is not liable for an injury” caused by the public entity or any of its employees.
In other words, you cannot sue a school district or a school employee for damages in a personal injury claim. Many governmental bodies have “sovereign immunity.” They are exempt from liability regardless of the injuries or harms they inflict.
The rule of sovereign immunity originated long ago in England to prevent the commoners from suing the king. The rule was followed regardless of how much harm the king inflicted on his subjects.
Can I Collect Damages in a California Negligence Case?
You may be entitled to compensation in a negligence case against the California government. Damages include compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, property damage and pain and suffering.
Under the California Tort Claims Act (CTCA), a claim for an injury caused by a government entity or employee must follow a predetermined set of rules.
A tort is any action or inaction that injures or harms another. It’s a civil wrong under which California courts impose liability. If the claim is rejected, you can still file suit in civil court.
Many states have adopted the immunity rule to limit their liability. However, there are exceptions through which an injured person can still seek redress for injuries caused by the government.
Limitations and Exceptions to the CTCA
The CTCA applies to civil liability claims for money and damages. It covers negligence claims as well as claims for intentional wrongs, breach of contract and nuisance.
Government agencies are, as a rule, responsible for the negligent actions of their employees if those employees are acting within the scope of their duties when an accident or injury occurs.
California public entities may also be held liable for injuries that are caused by the negligence of their independent contractors. All claims must be filed with the agency or entity that employs the negligent person rather than with the negligent employee directly.
Deadlines for Filing Claims Under the CTCA
An injured party must file a claim with the responsible government agency within six months of the occurrence of the accident or injury. The government will then accept or reject the claim within 45 days.
Alternatively, the government might offer an out-of-court settlement to resolve the matter. If there is no response from the government, or if the government denies your claim, you may then file suit in civil court. You are under no obligation to file suit in any case, so you have nothing to lose by providing notice of the event.
Duty of Care in a California Personal Injury Claim
The California public school system is under a legal duty of care to protect all students entrusted to its care. That includes providing a safe environment and protecting all children from foreseeable harm.
Premises should be routinely monitored for hazards and potentially dangerous conditions. If unsafe or high-risk situations exist, they should be resolved at once.
Because it has a duty of care, the school may be held liable for any injuries that occur on school property and result from negligence. The more evidence you have to demonstrate a school’s negligence, the more likely you are to be fairly compensated for your child’s injuries.
What to Do If Your Child is Injured at School
If you believe that your child’s injuries were caused by negligent actions on the part of the school, a personal injury lawyer can guide you through the complex California legal code to receive the full compensation amount your child deserves.
There are also steps you should take on your own behalf:
- Photograph all injuries your child has suffered on school grounds including close-ups and photos that document the healing process.
- Collect statements or contact information from all witnesses. Witness testimony can build a strong case for your child in court.
- Document all medical treatments, medical expenses and mental or emotional health issues arising from the injury. You can recover lost wages if you missed work to care for an injured child or if you had to pay someone else to look after your injured child while you were at work.
What Are Intentional Acts?
Intentional acts are those acts which directly cause harm to someone else. Assault, battery, false imprisonment, mental, emotional and sexual abuse that occurs in a school setting are all intentional acts for which a school is liable.
Intentional Acts Versus Negligence
Intentional acts include bullying when one child abuses another child or when an adult employee of a school intentionally injures a child.
The parents of the bully may be liable for damages inflicted by the bully, or the school district may be liable for failing to stop the bullying if they were aware of it.
If an adult employee is the perpetrator, the school district might be negligent for failing to sufficiently screen the offending employee or neglecting to provide that employee with proper training and supervision.
School injuries that are not intentional acts may be considered accidents. However, many accidents result from some kind of negligence on the part of the school.
What Constitutes Negligence In a Public School?
A school that doesn’t adhere to generally accepted standards of care while providing services to a child and causes injury to a child as a result is considered negligent. There are many ways that a child can be injured by negligence.
A California attorney can evaluate your situation and provide sound legal advice. Here are some examples of school district negligence:
Asbestos is a natural silicate mineral that was widely used as a construction material until it was banned in 1977. It can make you feel sick if you’re exposed to it, and long-term exposure is believed to cause cancer.
Sports and Playground Injuries
Sports and playground injuries can occur due to poor teacher supervision. They can result from defective playground equipment or a failure by the school district to maintain that equipment.
Improper food preparation, tainted food from a manufacturer or improper food storage can all cause food poisoning ranging from mild to severe.
Injuries Resulting from Man-made or Natural Disasters
Injuries can occur if the school district lacks adequate emergency preparedness schemes or fails to properly evacuate students or issue a directive to shelter in place.
Slips and Falls
Slips and falls at school may occur when a school or its agents fail to remove hazardous materials from school grounds or fail to correct hazardous conditions.
School Bus Accidents
School bus accidents can be complicated. They may involve negligence on the part of the school bus driver or a lack of proper bus driver training. The bus may have malfunctioned, or it may have needed a major repair when the accident occurred. The other driver’s negligence may have contributed to the accident as well.
Public Schools Versus Private Schools
Under property liability or premises liability laws, schools must maintain a safe environment to keep accidents from happening. Because public schools are considered governmental entities, you must follow a rigorous set of rules and regulations in order to file a claim.
Private schools are different. You might be suing a not-for-profit group, a synagogue or a local diocese. Because the government is not involved, there are no complicated procedures to follow. You can simply proceed by filing a personal injury lawsuit in California civil court.
In a premises liability claim, retaining the help of a personal injury attorney can ensure that your claim moves swiftly forward. That includes completing all the necessary steps on time to resolve the matter equitably and receive fair compensation for your child’s injuries.
School accident insurance can protect schools from liability suits while still providing students, teachers and volunteers with the medical care they need should an accident occur.
Suing a public school can be time-consuming, but if your child has been injured, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by filing a claim. Contact California attorney JTLegal Group now for a no-cost case evaluation to determine whether your child’s injuries warrant legal action.