Safe Schools Start with Duty of Care
Schools should be safe places for learning and personal growth for our children. Parents trust in safe schools to provide an environment for their children to thrive academically and socially. Most school employees work very diligently to take care of our kids and provide the best education they can, always striving to improve learning and school climate. However, preventable injuries can happen on school grounds, and when a student sustains an injury due to negligence on the school premises, questions about liability arise. This article aims to shed light on school liability for negligently caused injuries to students, and how we can strive to provide safe schools for all.
Abeyta Nelson Injury Law recently represented the family of a young boy who was attending his first day of preschool. His parents dropped him off in the morning. After an exciting but uneventful first day of school, our young client was getting ready to go home. As he attempted to pull his sweatshirt out his locker, the set of lockers fell onto him.
Our client sustained a fractured femur requiring multiple surgeries, resulting in expensive medical bills. During our investigation, we found the lockers had not been anchored into the wall and the school was aware of this. Abeyta Nelson secured a significant settlement for the family as a result of the child’s injuries.
Negligence refers to a failure to exercise reasonable care, resulting in harm or injury to another person. In the context of schools, negligence might involve situations where the school’s staff or administration fails to uphold a standard of care that a reasonable person would in similar circumstances. This can encompass various aspects, including maintenance of facilities, supervision (of both students and teachers), and following safety protocols.
Duty of Care
School administrators have a legal and moral obligation to ensure the safety and well-being of their students. This obligation, often referred to as the “duty of care,” requires schools to take reasonable measures to prevent foreseeable risks and protect students from harm. This duty extends not only to teachers, but also to all school personnel, as well as the premises and equipment used by students. In a school setting, a breach of duty may happen when a student is injured due to carelessness or inattentiveness. An experienced school negligence attorney can help families determine their rights.
Factors Influencing Social Liability
Determining liability in cases of negligently caused student injuries can be complex and depends on several factors:
Standard of Care: The court will consider what a reasonable school would do under similar circumstances. This involves evaluating whether the school took appropriate precautions to prevent school injuries.
Foreseeability: Schools are expected to anticipate potential risks and hazards. If a school should have reasonably foreseen a certain danger and failed to address it adequately, it may be held liable for resulting injuries.
Supervision: Adequate supervision is crucial, especially for younger students. If an injury occurs due to inadequate supervision, the school may be liable. Teachers and school officials should supervise students just as a sensible and attentive parent would do in a similar situation. Negligent supervision may include large groups of young children left unattended during PE, lunchtime or at recess, or when a teacher steps away from students working with dangerous equipment or chemicals during shop or chemistry classes. A lack of supervision of students in schools is a recurring factor in school negligence cases.
Maintenance and Safety Protocols: Schools must regularly maintain facilities and equipment to ensure safety. Failure to do so could lead to liability if an injury is caused by neglected maintenance. Premises liability claims occur in schools when conditions are considered to be dangerous, and someone is injured on the property as a result. Your child, and all students, deserve a safe environment in which to attend school.
Sexual Abuse: Unfortunately, too many cases of preventable sexual abuse by teachers and other school staff upon students occur. School districts must investigate the backgrounds of potential employees before hiring. The Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction hires teachers and other professionals who meet OSPI’s standards under the state code of conduct. After an employee has been hired, however, school officials must continue to actively monitor the behavior of their teachers, staff members and administrators and respond to any complaints of questionable behavior.
In order to establish a school’s negligence an expert witness is usually required. Abeyta Nelson has extensive experience in finding qualified experts as well as the knowledge and experience to defend against experts hired by the school.
By maintaining a proactive approach to safety, schools can create and maintain an environment where students can learn and thrive without unnecessary risks. The personal injury attorneys at Abeyta Nelson Injury Law have handled dozens of negligence claims against private and public schools, pre-K through 12th grade, as well as colleges. Our school negligence lawyers know how to hold schools accountable.
School negligence cases are a complex area of personal injury law. If you or your loved one are injured during an incident occurring at your child’s school or during a school-sponsored event, call Abeyta Nelson Injury Law right away for a free consultation. There is never a charge to discuss your questions with our legal counsel, and no fee unless we win your case.
-blog written by attorney David P. Abeyta, Abeyta Nelson Injury Law