The new school year is upon us, and your child is hopefully enjoying her back to school experience. Although Florida schools are generally very safe places for children, school injuries can and do occur every day.
In fact, about 25% of all child injuries occur in or around school property, and many of these accidents are preventable. In a number of cases, injuries are related to improper maintenance of school grounds or lack of supervision by teachers or school staff. If your child’s injury is due to negligence, you should consider holding the school accountable for the actions that led to his or her injury.
Below, we’re going to cover what Florida parents need to know about school injuries, including what causes school injuries and what to look out for, as well as what to do if your child is injured as a result of the school’s negligence.
Common School Injuries in Florida
The most common school injuries are related to activities such as sports or play at recess, or to unexpected adversities such as school violence. School zone driving mistakes are another common cause of accidents.
Regardless of the type off accident that brings harm to your child, the school – and others – have a duty to engage in safe and responsible behavior. If they don’t, you may be able to hold them accountable for negligence.
Sports injuries are the leading cause of school injuries in middle and high school students. Sports are an inherently risky activity, but the risk of injury can be reduced by the use of proper safety equipment, avoiding overexertion, and appropriate warmup and cooldown before or after practice or games.
If you are concerned about your child’s safety in school sports, speak to her coach or athletic coordinator.
School Zone Injuries
School zones are chaotic places during school pickup and drop-off. Student pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers are sharing the road with parents picking up or dropping off younger children, as well as school buses.
Collisions involving student pedestrians, buses, or other drivers can be particularly severe. Worse, they are often preventable by taking appropriate safety precautions.
Playground injuries are very common in younger children, and they can be quite serious. Sometimes accidents simply happen, and no one is at fault. However, many accidents could be prevented by appropriate supervision of children at play or maintenance of playground equipment.
School violence is becoming increasingly common, and ranges from simple bullying to the deadly acts of violence you see in the news. In many cases, school violence is can be prevented by implementing proper school security protocols.
Holding Florida Schools Liable for Back-to-School Injuries
If your child is injured at school, you may be able to hold the school liable and recover damages for the financial burdens of your child’s injury, and in some cases emotional damages as well.
If you are considering a school injury liability suit, the most important thing to know is whether the school is a public or private school.
If your child is injured at a private school, you would be bringing an injury claim against a private entity or not-for-profit organization. There usually aren’t any special rules for bringing a claim against a private school, and standard Florida personal injury liability laws would apply.
However, if your child is injured at a public school, it is considered a governmental entity, and is therefore protected against many forms of liability under sovereign immunity.
How Sovereign Immunity for Florida Public Schools Works
If your child is injured at a public school, the most important concept to understand is that of sovereign immunity. Public school districts are considered part of the government, and therefore have what’s known as sovereign immunity.
Under sovereign immunity, school districts and their employees cannot be sued. However, the Florida supreme court states that “A public school, at least through the high school level, undoubtedly owes a general duty of supervision to the students within its care.”
In plain English, this means that if the school district’s negligence led to your child’s injury, sovereign immunity is waived, and you can sue the school district for damages. This is especially the case if the negligence was related to breaching an operational duty.
However, even though it’s possible to hold a public school injury liable for your child’s injuries, the process of determining fault, reporting injuries, and receiving damages is long and complex, and requires the expertise of a knowledgeable Florida personal injury attorney.
How might a Florida public school be negligent in an injury situation?
Examples of this type of negligence include:
- Premises negligence: Improper maintenance of school grounds that creates a preventable and unnecessary risk for students.
- Negligent supervision: Failure of teachers, principals and staff to provide proper supervision of students that leads to injury.
- Violence: Acts of violence committed on school grounds or by school staff that lead to injuries.
In these cases, Florida public schools will not have sovereign immunity, allowing you to seek damages for injuries.
Is an Injury Lawsuit against a Florida School Worthwhile?
You send your child to school in the morning trusting that she will be kept safe while under the school’s care. If this burden of care is breached, you should consider holding the school accountable for its negligence through a personal injury suit.
If you win, you will not only be able to receive compensation that can help you to cover the cost of expensive medical bills, but potentially force the school to change policies that led to your child’s injury in the first place and make it less likely that other kids will get hurt due to the same problems.
However, the choice is ultimately a personal one, and should be made after weighing the potential benefits with the special limitations surrounding school liability.
About the Author:Since 1994, seasoned litigation and trial lawyer Anthony B. White has helped thousands of accident victims seek damages due to injuries sustained as a result of another party’s negligence. Included in America’s Registry of Outstanding Professionals and selected to the 2012, 2013, and 2014 editions of Florida Super Lawyers, Mr. White specializes in car accidents, insurance disputes, wrongful death, product liability, and medical malpractice cases. He is a longstanding member of the Florida Justice Association and the American Association for Justice and currently sits on the Board of Directors of the Broward County Justice Association.