When a student or staff member suffers personal injury on school property, who is liable for damages? The answer to this question depends on a few key factors that can vary from case to case. Read on for more information on this topic.
Dangerous of Unsafe Conditions on School Property
School administrators have a responsibility to maintain a safe operating environment for all students. In terms relevant to personal injury litigation, this is often referred to as the “duty of care.” When foreseeable threats to personal safety exist within the confines of school property, it is the responsibility of school leaders to take reasonable action to mitigate the risk of harm that may befall students in attendance.
There are many examples of different school environments that should be adequately maintained to reduce the risk of personal injury to students. For example, playground equipment should be regularly inspected and maintained to ensure there are no apparent safety risks. Slippery floors and other unsanitary conditions such as bathrooms or spots in the cafeteria should be attended to in a prompt manner with the appropriate warning signs displayed visibly when necessary.
The presence of lead and other toxic materials such as asbestos also requires due consideration by school officials. This is most commonly an issue in older schools built prior to the 1970s and 1980s, when lead was commonly found in paint and asbestos was a common insulation material for walls, ceilings, and vinyl flooring. Exposure to these and other harmful chemicals can cause a myriad of lifelong health issues.
When Students Cause Personal Injury to Each Other
The same duty of care extends to school officials when it comes to taking reasonable steps to keep students from causing personal injury to one another. This duty includes hiring enough staff to ensure all students are adequately supervised throughout the school day while on school grounds. In addition, school hiring officials must take care to conduct thorough background checks and interviews to make sure that only the safest and most experienced individuals are hired to work in the care of children.
Schools may be civilly liable for cases of sexual abuse or bullying of a student if they knew or should have known about the issue given the circumstances. When school officials should have known about the likelihood of personal injury to students on the premises and failed to act, parents and other stakeholders may have grounds for pursuing litigation and should consult with a local experienced personal injury attorney.
When Schools are Not Liable
Schools are generally not liable for a personal injury that occurs on school grounds after school hours or outside school-sponsored events.
Organized sporting events provide another notable exception to personal injury liability. If a student breaks a bone while playing football, the parents typically cannot sue the school for negligence because there is an inherent assumption of risk involved in the activity in question.