As a parent, you expect your child’s school to be a place where they can learn and play safely, without threat of bodily injury. Unfortunately, just like at home, Arizona accidents at school can happen. They occur on the playground or in the gymnasium, in the chemistry classroom, on theater sets, or even off campus when kids are away at a field trip or at a school-sponsored event.
Hopefully your child never sustains a serious injury while they’re at school. If they do, here is what to be aware of.
Types of Accidents at School
From before a child even enters a classroom, to the start of their journey home after a day at school, accidents can occur in crosswalks, in vehicles and on school grounds. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports 9.2 million children have emergency department visits each year for unintentional injuries. Considering how much time kids spend at school, some types of potentially dangerous situations your child might be involved in to be aware of include:
- Crosswalks: Students who walk to school will likely enter car-filled roads to get to campus. Schools may employ crossing guards who help students get across the road safely, as well as place school crossing signs in the road to alert drivers to slow down. A car not paying attention to a child, or a crossing guard employed by the school who does not help ensure child safety, may be a negligent party.
- Playgrounds: They’re fun for kids, but the CDC reports that playgrounds account for more than 200,000 emergency visits a year by children ages 14 and younger in the United States. Besides poor supervision that results in violent behavior among students, negligence on behalf of the school may occur through defective playground equipment or through premises liability because the school environment is not maintained safely.
- Defective product use: Any supplies that pose a danger to children that are provided by the school may constitute defective product negligence. This can range from the quality of the meals that are served in the cafeteria, to the safety features of scissors used in an art class, to chemicals and physics equipment used by students in science class.
- Off-campus activities: Heading off campus can introduce some perils to your children. These include: unsafe driving by a bus driver or school chaperone, accidents that happen during active programs (like a ropes course for team-building), or even concussions or slips and falls in unsafe areas. Some children may even wander off from the group, where they put themselves into other unsafe situations. Because field trips often ignite excitement in children, this gives them a heightened need for secure circumstances in order to keep everyone safe.
Accidents are a common part of life, especially minor scrapes and bruises during an active and busy childhood. When serious injury and suffering occurs because of a school’s blatant negligence, though, parents or guardians of an injured child may be able to file a personal injury claim against the school, or against another party that was negligent, such as a business the class visits on a field trip. Negligence may also extend to parents of children who bully their classmates, or to teachers who neglect to adhere to risky allergens of a child that the school has been alerted to.
Compared to businesses, public schools and school districts are unique in that they are government entities that receive “sovereign immunity” that prevents lawsuits from occurring against them, other than in cases of extreme negligence. You will need to make sure that your child’s injury and the situation that caused it fit the exception that allows you to take action against a school. Private schools may provide more options for a victim’s family in a possible claim, because they are not covered by the same government immunity laws that public schools are.
A successful claim will depend on your ability to prove that the school was in charge of watching your child, that it neglected its duties, and that the negligence was the cause of your child’s injuries. Also, the accident dangers must have been foreseeable and should have been prevented by the school. Otherwise, it is highly likely that you will not be able to receive any damages from a claim.
Because school accident issues can include many gray areas, sometimes schools will offer victims a settlement in hopes of avoiding court, especially if they have an insurance policy in place for that particular type of situation. A noteworthy consideration if a school does have insurance, though, is that they may not be granted immunity, so even a settlement offer can still result in a lawsuit. Protecting the reputation of a school from a possible lawsuit may be another influential factor that motivates a school to settle.
Besides holding a school responsible for negligence, parents whose children are involved in accidents while at school may consider another party to be to blame. For example, this can include the parents of a child who enacts violence against another child. Or, in the case of an accident off school campus because of premises liability or a defective product, parents may consider taking legal action against another business.
Because of the statute of limitations in filing a personal injury claim against a school, and because you may be offered a settlement from the school’s insurance company, it is vital to consult with a personal injury attorney as quickly as possible after a serious school accident to protect your rights and not agree to anything that diminishes your chances of just compensation. Talking with a Phoenix defective product lawyer or personal injury lawyer can help you and your family to better understand if what your child has experienced is substantial enough to file a claim.