What Can I Do If My Child Was Hit at School?
Last updated 10/30/2019
No parent wants to hear their child say that he or she was hit by another student at school. We send our kids to school with the belief that they will be kept safe from foreseeable harm, and schools have a legal duty to meet this expectation.
So what can a parent do if a child was injured, and the injury was caused by another student? In short, the parent may have legal recourse against the school if the school, or an employee of the school, was negligent. It is also possible that the offending student, or the student's parents, could be liable for damages.
Determining Liability After a School Incident
Whether or not the school is liable for the injury usually depends on the legal concept of negligence. Schools have a “duty of care" to protect students from accidents and injuries that are reasonably foreseeable, whether children are in school, on the playground, or on the school bus.
In other words, schools have a duty to provide a safe environment for all students. This includes providing the necessary supervision to keep students safe from bullying and violent attacks from other students. When a school administrator or employee fails to act responsibly or reasonably, it is considered negligence.
Not every act of bullying or violence at school can be traced back to negligence. Sometimes, school officials don't have enough advanced warning that a child is in danger and they do not have time to act.
For example, if a student was injured by a bully who had acted out similarly in the past, and it happened during a time when the students were unsupervised, then the school may have been negligent.
On the other hand, if a student was injured by another student who had not had behavior problems in the past and the area was being supervised at the time but the teachers could not stop the incident, then the school might not have been negligent.
Is the Child or Their Parent Liable?
The child responsible for the injury will likely not be held legally liable, unless the child is near adulthood and knowingly committed a crime. Courts rarely hold young minors legally liable for their actions. As such, it is possible that the child's parent/guardian may be held legally responsible for their child's actions.
Cases involving injuries to children are complex, which is why it's important to consult with a personal injury lawyer in your area if your child has been injured at school. It will be crucial to obtain the necessary evidence to prove that negligence caused the harm.
Public vs. Private Schools
Unlike public schools, private schools are legally treated like any other liable private entity. This means a private school can be held responsible for negligence and other offenses. In most cases, the claim will be settled with the school's insurance provider.
The law generally considers public schools and their employees to be government employees and therefore immune from lawsuits. Courts will sometimes make exceptions, depending on the severity of the school's/school employee's offense; gross negligence may be a cause for a legal exception to a school's immunity.
Resources for Parents and Guardians
If a child is injured, it is natural for their guardian to want to act. While parents and guardians do have legal options, taking advantage of those options can be difficult without the help of an experienced legal professional. If individuals want to take legal action on behalf of their injured child, an attorney can be a necessary resource for getting the justice the child deserves.
Contact a qualified personal injury attorney to make sure your rights are protected.