Teachers, school administrators and coaches have a duty of care for the children in their classrooms, on school campuses and on the field. They are obligated to take every reasonable precaution to prevent students from suffering foreseeable harm.
Foreseeable and reasonable are important words, and the success of many personal injury cases involving school children often hinge on whether an injury was foreseeable and whether it was reasonable for a faculty member to have taken steps to prevent it.
Yes – studies suggest more than 14 million children are injured at school each year in the United States.
A student survey conducted by the CDC, in which Broward County, Duval County, Orange County and Miami school districts participated, found a number of worrying statistics about school safety and injuries on campuses.
Nearly 30 million of the nation’s children under the age of 15 participate in organized sports, usually through their schools. Those activities result in approximately 3.5 million injuries per year.
Although brain injuries are rare as a percentage of all sports injuries, they are statistically significant. Roughly 21 percent of childhood traumatic brain injuries are attributable to sports and recreation. Visits to the emergency room for sports injuries is even more common, with roughly 775,000 ER visits for childhood sports injuries each year.
With so many children suffering injuries, often when participating in school-organized athletics or while on school grounds, why aren’t there more personal injury lawsuits aimed at schools?
If you’re interested in the duties of Florida educators, you may want to read through the Principles of Professional Conduct for the Education Profession in Florida. While some of those principles are ethical in nature, there are some specific to protecting children from harm.
Schools in Florida have a duty to protect students from harm caused by:
If a teacher assaults a child, the school has likely failed to uphold their duty. It may also be considered negligent if a student is injured by a desk collapse, falling lockers, broken stairs or some other maintenance failure on school grounds. If a school neglects to take reasonable steps to keep out criminals and someone from outside injures a child, that could also potentially be considered a failure to uphold the school’s duty of care.
Like local municipal and city governments, public schools in Florida are protected by sovereign immunity laws. That means they have special protection from lawsuits. The rules aren’t entirely dissimilar to the often-controversial protections afforded to police officers.
There are still scenarios in which the school could be held liable for an injury, or the responsible teacher could be held personally liable, but these cases are rarely easy. That’s why in cases of bullying or fights on campus many personal injury attorneys seek compensation from the aggressor’s parent.
Each case is different. If you believe the negligence of a teacher, coach, school administrator or another student’s parent played a role in your child’s injury, it may be in your best interest to speak with a personal injury attorney.
Bullying is a prolific problem in America’s schools. While bullying does on occasion get physical, it can also be relentlessly psychological and potential drive children to self-harm. Can schools be held financially liable if a child is either physically injured or hurts themselves as a resulting of bullying?
That depends on whether faculty knew or should have known and whether they took actions to stop it. In cases of bullying the aggressor’s parent may also be held liable for similar reasons. The failure to take action to keep another child safe can potentially be viewed as negligent in court.
Personal injury cases of all types, whether they’re related to slip and falls, negligent security, car accidents or anything else, are often complicated. Although sovereign immunity does provide schools extra liability protection from lawsuits, there are limits. Even if sovereign immunity protection could be waived in your case, you will still need to take extra procedural steps because the claim will be against a governmental entity. Cases against government organizations are regulated by slightly different rules, so it’s important to act quickly.