If you are the parent of a child or children, you know this one universal truth: accidents happen. They happen a lot.
When you take your children to school, you know that accidents don’t stop happening, although you expect them to happen less under the constant supervision of teachers and adults. But still, kids can get hurt, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Sometimes, these incidents are enough to cause concern, or result in major injuries for your child.
What do you do, as a parent, if your child ends up getting injured at school? From a legal standpoint, there are quite a few options. To understand how best to handle the situation, you have to evaluate the actual occurrence and consider if the school or other parties are liable.
Accidental vs. Intentional Child Injuries
As a parent, it’s natural for your hackles to rise when you find out your child was hurt at school. It’s instinct to want to know what happened, who did it, and whether anybody received punishment. But to make sure your child receives the best possible help, you need to take a step back, ask the right questions, and attempt to understand which parties were involved.
Sometimes, a kid just trips walking down the hall and knocks out a tooth. Nobody is truly at fault, not even the kid. Sometimes, it’s still an accident, but there are other forces that allowed the accident to occur. If the child tripped because there was a hole in the floor that the school neglected to fix, that would make the school or district liable.
Then there are intentional scenarios, like if a child was tripped or pushed and it resulted in them losing a tooth. That would make the “tripper” the liable party and the parents would then have to discuss liability issues. There is a process here, and you have to make sure you find the properly liable party.
School vs. Outside Parties
When a child gets hurt on school property, the first thing most people assume is that the school is liable. Sometimes this is true. If a weed barrier that is exposed and trips a child, the school or school district may be considered negligent for not fixing it. However, the school is not always the responsible party, especially if there were other external forces that the school was not aware of or able to control.
For example, if a student injures him or herself on school playground equipment, the first concern is that a responsible adult or teacher was not adequately supervising. However, it could be that the jungle gym or playground equipment is dangerous by design, or faulty. For example, if there is a gap between two steps that causes your kid to slip through and get hurt, the builders or manufacturers may be liable.
Liable Individuals vs. School District Negligence
Another important distinction between liable parties is whether or not it was a single individual that is responsible or a district-wide standard that affects multiple children.
For example, if a child is injured in a classroom because the teacher was too busy checking his or her email to notice the child’s actions, that would make the teacher liable for injury more so than the whole school district. If the district does not have an anti-bullying policy in place, and children are frequently getting injured in disputes with bullies, that would make the district liable.
This is why it’s imperative to understand the nature of the incident, so you can evaluate the responsible parties accurately.
Understand Your Rights
As parents, we are often defensive of our children to a fault. If your child comes home injured, or you have to pick them up due to an injury, it’s incredibly important that you ask every question you can think of to understand exactly what happened.
What was my child doing? Where was his/her teacher? Who was involved? Was anyone else injured? How was the injury treated?
If you believe that you are not getting accurate answers, or feel that there was negligence or a lack of supervision involved, you should reach out to a legal representative to evaluate your next steps. Fair and just compensation for the injury may be the best chance your child has to fully recover, and an experienced child injury lawyer with a will know how to look at the facts surrounding the incident and let you know whether or not you have a valid case – as well as who you should target as the responsible party.
About the Author:
John K. Lawlor, a South Florida personal injury attorney who focuses his practice on complex personal injury, wrongful death, and professional malpractice, founded the law firm of Lawlor, White & Murphey in 1998. Since 1995, Mr. Lawlor’s trial advocacy and litigation skills, as well as his wide-ranging legal expertise, have provided plaintiffs and their families with a distinct advantage when seeking financial compensation and justice for injuries caused by the negligence of others. Mr. Lawlor is an EAGLE member of the Florida Bar Association and an active member of the American Association for Justice, the Broward County Justice Association, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and several professional associations.