School Injuries/School Negligence | Lawyers & Attorneys
School is supposed to be a safe environment for children where they can learn, grow, and play. Parents send their children to school with the expectation that their child will spend the day in an environment in which teachers and administrators will keep them safe. When a child suffers harm because of a dangerous condition or lack of proper supervision at school, parents often wonder what their rights are and how their child can be properly compensated for his or her injuries.
Frequently Asked Questions about School Injuries/School Negligence
Our personal injury lawyers provide answers to some important questions below.
Yes, schools can be held liable for injuries sustained by students and/or visitors, but it is important to understand that not every mishap is grounds for a lawsuit. In order to have a successful personal injury lawsuit, you must be able to establish all of the requisite elements of a claim.
Common claims against schools or day care centers include Negligent Supervision or Premises Liability claims.
Negligent supervision is when someone who has a legal responsibility to supervise others fails to do so in a responsible manner. This can include a wide range of supervisors including teachers, recess monitors, bus monitors, daycare providers, camp counselors, or coaches. Negligent supervision can involve any number of dangerous scenarios. Schools can be found liable for failing to keep children safe from an assault by another student, traffic, pools, dangerous chemicals, and much more.
Proving negligent supervision involves proving many of the same elements of a typical negligence claim. First, the plaintiff must prove that the person or organization accepted the responsibility to supervise a child. Given that students spend so much time at school, schools are often considered to be in loco parentis, a Latin phrase meaning “in the place of a parent”. By virtue of this, schools and daycare centers are considered to have accepted the responsibility to supervise and keep a child safe.
Next, a plaintiff must prove that the teacher or supervisor failed to properly monitor the child. Based on many factors such as the age of a child or nature of the activity, a reasonable person would expect different levels of supervision. Proving this element requires establishing the reasonable standard of supervision, then showing how the teacher or monitor in question failed to meet that standard. Once this is established, the plaintiff must prove that the injury sustained was foreseeable and a direct result of this lack of supervision. In other words, the plaintiff must be able to show that a reasonable caregiver could have seen the incident coming and prevented it from happening.
Property owners and managers have a duty to provide a reasonably safe environment for those who visit their premises such as students, parents, or other visitors. When a safety hazard or dangerous condition develops, a property owner has a duty to provide a warning until the hazard can be remedied or repaired. If a school has knowledge, or should have knowledge, of a dangerous condition which could cause injury but fails to fix the condition or make it otherwise safe, the school may be legally liable if a student were to get hurt because of that condition.
Examples of potentially dangerous conditions include wet floors, broken tiles or flooring, broken windows, poor lighting in stairwells or hallways, broken or dangerous playground equipment, or ice on walkways.
When filing a lawsuit for injuries suffered by a child, a parent or legal guardian typically brings the case on behalf of the child. A parent may also have a claim for aspects of their child’s injury that have affected them, for example the cost of medical care, or loss of the child’s services at home. A parent may also have their own claim if they were to be injured as a result of the examples of the dangerous conditions set forth above.
Public schools and their employees are considered municipal entities which means special provisions must be followed even before starting a formal lawsuit or your child’s potential claim is at risk for being lost forever. The General Municipal Law requires that within 90 days of accrual of a claim, i.e. when the accident happened, the school must be served with a “Notice of Claim”. A Notice of Claim provides some information to the municipal entity so that it has the ability to investigate what happened and collect evidence in a timely manner. The parents then must wait 30 days after the Notice of Claim has been served on the school to file a lawsuit in Court. The statute of limitations to commence a lawsuit is 1 year and 90 days from when the accident occurred.
Children under the age of 18 are given the benefit of a toll to the statute of limitations until he or she reaches the age of 18. This means that once the notice of claim is provided, the 1 year and 90-day time limit does not commence until the child turns 18. Tolling means to pause. This does not mean that a claim cannot be brought sooner, it just means that it does not have to be. A lawsuit can always be commenced during the tolling period. Any claims that belong to the parent, as noted above, are not given the benefit of this toll and must be commenced within 1 year and 90 days of the incident or they may be lost forever.
Yes, in some circumstances a case can be settled before a formal lawsuit is filed. Factors that are considered when a school negligence lawyer is trying to negotiate a settlement include the strength of the liability (i.e. the ability to legally prove that the school or employee is responsible) and the severity of the injuries. Settlements often occur when the responsibility for the injuries is clear and the injuries suffered are fully known and understood.
The length of time from the incident to the time of settlement or verdict depends on many facts. These factors include the injuries and extent of treatment, the number of defendants, the type of insurance coverage, the nature of the conduct that caused the injury, and whether a settlement can be reached or the case needs to proceed to trial. More information about how long a personal injury case takes, can be found here.
Settlements involving children under the age of 18 have an additional step which adds to the length of a case. In New York, settlements made on behalf of a child must be brought before a court by way of an “Infant Compromise” proceeding. An infant compromise proceeding requires that your school injury attorney submit documents to a Judge describing the nature of the case, the resolution of the matter, how the settlement proceeds will be handled to ensure the money is protected on behalf of the child until they become of age, and that the settlement is fair. The Judge’s role in reviewing the matter is to ensure the child is protected.
Compensation in a civil case is meant to provide monetary compensation to make the injured individual whole. The value of a case depends on several factors including the strength of liability, the significance of the injuries, and the amount of out of pocket losses suffered. An injury that requires surgery or results in a permanent limitation or disability increases the value of a case whereas an injury for which no surgery is necessary and results in a smooth recovery would have a lower value. The out of pocket expenses incurred for such things as medical expenses, is also an important factor in determining the full value of a claim.
As with any case, evidence is crucial. Photos of injuries when they occur and heal over time are often much more effective in explaining injuries to a jury than talking or writing about those same injuries. Photos of a dangerous condition or object that caused an injury are also crucial. Medical records are essential in understanding the extent of an injury. Documentation of concerns in writing before an incident occurs can be very important in a case. It is always best to document communications in writing but if a phone call or in person conversation does occur, following up with an email regarding your understanding is a simple way to then write down what was discussed.
Timeline of a Personal Injury Case
- If injured, when ready, contact a personal injury lawyer to determine if a claim can be pursued on your behalf
- Meet with a lawyer to discuss the incident
- Bring medical records or other relevant documents including an accident report if available
- Your lawyer will help you understand the process of a personal injury case
- Follow the doctors’ advice
- Go to all medical appointments
- Report all symptoms to doctors
- Take photos of injuries
- Tell lawyer anytime a new doctor is seen
- Determine how and why the injury occurred
- Speak with witnesses
- Obtain any investigative reports
- Obtain scene, vehicle and product photos, as applicable
- Obtain medical records and bills
- Consider all possible claims and theories of liability against any potential defendant
- Consult with experts
- Communicate and negotiate with the insurance company
- Obtain a settlement or pursue a lawsuit
- File a summons and complaint prior to the statute of limitations
- Serve the legal documents on the defendants
- Prepare and exchange evidence with the other lawyers in the case
- Conduct depositions of all relevant parties (also called EBTs)
- Defense medical examination conducted
- File motions (written applications) to the court if necessary
- Participate in arbitration or mediation if appropriate
- Determine liens if any
- Settle the case or proceed to trial
- You have the right to a trial by jury or by the judge who will act as both judge and jury
- At a trial, the injured person must prove it was more likely than not that the defendant was negligent and caused injuries
- The judge or jury will listen to all the evidence presented and the arguments by the lawyers, apply the facts to the law, and render a decision
Recent Verdicts & Settlements
Plaintiff was an ironworker who was injured when he fell from a ladder, suffering fractures to both elbows resulting in permanent loss of strength and loss of range of motion in both arms. His impairment limited the number and types of employment opportunities and limited his future earning potential.
Plaintiff was injured when a fork from a forklift truck fell on top of his left leg, severely fracturing the tibia and fibula, requiring numerous surgeries and resulting in a permanent, partial loss of use of his leg.
Plaintiff was assaulted outside of a bar in Saratoga and as a result suffered a traumatic brain injury, a fractured skull, brain swelling and brain bleeding, facial contusions and bleeding, as well as lacerations and bruises on his body. He also suffered from short and long term memory deficits and other cognitive deficits.
Plaintiff was a passenger in a vehicle which went off the road and rolled over, causing him to suffer significant permanent injuries, including skull fracture; fractured mandible requiring surgical placement of plates and screws; facial fractures and lacerations; sternal fracture; spinal fractures; lacerations to spleen, liver and lung; multiple rib and toe fractures; tinnitus and hearing loss; post-traumatic stress disorder; facial scarring and numbness.
Federal Employers Liability Act/FELA
Plaintiff suffered a significant back injury while working for CSX.
Plaintiff, a roofing contractor, suffered a fractured skull, cervical spine fracture and fractured ribs after falling from a roof. The injuries left him with chronic pain and fatigue, limited tolerance for walking, lifting, or carrying and limitations in his hearing and vision.
Plaintiff, a 49-year-old man, was discharged from the hospital with critically low levels of potassium, which precipitated a fatal arrhythmia at home and subsequently caused his death. His family brought a claim against the hospital for medical negligence and wrongful death.
The infant plaintiff fell from a tractor being operated by a farm employee and was run over by the tractor. The 10-year-old boy suffered a femur fracture requiring surgery, multiple facial fractures requiring surgery, foot and toe fractures and loss of consciousness.
Nursing Home Negligence
An 87-year-old man was discharged from a local hospital on the afternoon of his death and returned to his assisted living facility. His health began to deteriorate throughout that evening; a nurse was told to check on him but never did. Facility staff found him unconscious on the floor in his room later that evening; paramedics were unable to revive him. It was claimed that the facility failed to obtain appropriate medical advice, assistance and treatment.
Plaintiff suffered two dislocated shoulders and a dislocated elbow after he was struck by a vehicle, which negligently swerved onto the shoulder and into the bike lane.
Plaintiff suffered injuries as a result of negligent monitoring of prescription medication.
* Prior results do not guarantee future outcomes.
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