In the past week, Indiana parents learned about a central Indiana high school (only 20 miles away from Indianapolis) where the school’s auditorium stage floor collapsed in the middle of a student performance, sending over a dozen students tumbling down into the orchestra pit. Fortunately, while several of the children had to be treated at the hospital for the injuries they sustained in the school accident, all were safely at home recuperating within 24 hours of the incident.
This isn’t the only school accident here in our neck of the woods in recent days. Around three weeks ago, a Valparaiso school bus filled with kids was hit early on a Tuesday morning in Union Township; the kids were on their way to a field trip when an ambulance ran a stop sign and slammed into their bus. Six of the kids had to be taken to the hospital for treatment; luckily, none of the students sustained serious injuries in the crash.
Kids Hurt at School: When Parents Sue the School for Injuries to Their Child
Parents trust their children to school authorities day after day, week after week, throughout the school year — as well as after school hours for extracurricular activities like practices, sporting events, school-sponsored trips, and choral events. Most parents assume that the school district and the school administration, as well as coaches, bus drivers, teachers, aides, and others are fulfilling their duty to keep those kids safe.
It is true that under the law, the school is responsible for keeping students safe while the kids are in their custody and control. As a general rule, courts will hold the school responsible for accident damages that have resulted from the school’s negligence. How is this shown? The parents must be able to prove that their child was injured because the school failed in its duty to keep the child safe, and that failure resulted in the child being hurt and injured.
Schools will have insurance policies in place to cover the possibility of injuries on school grounds. If there was inadequate supervision of a child, for instance, then this policy may cover the child’s medical expenses and any long term care needs resulting from the accident.
Schools must act in a reasonable manner to keep the school facilities (the building, the grounds) safe for students as well as making sure that the kids are not hurt by other kids, teachers, coaches, or individuals who have gained access to the school without permission or approval. This duty toward the students is not limitless, though.
Limited Liability of the School for Injuries to a Child: Defenses Against Paying the Claim
The law puts boundaries on the amount of responsibility that a school district has for kids being hurt in an accident while at school. Insurance defense lawyers for the school may also assert other kinds of defenses against the school district having to pay an injury claim. These defenses include:
Schools are not legally liable for actions that could not be foreseeable — school districts are only responsible for protecting kids against known dangers or risks that are reasonably foreseen to be a possible danger to them.
Furthermore, there may be “governmental immunity” laws that the school district will assert as a defense. Public school districts may claim that they are not subject to a damages claim because of this immunity, for example. Private schools, as private entities, are not covered by governmental immunity claims.
3. Parents’ Fault.
Additionally, parents also have a role to play in keeping kids safe. If a child needs a particular medication during the school day, for example a kind of heart medication, then the parent is responsible for making sure that the medication is available at the school during the day and that the school nurse, teacher, etc., is aware that the child needs to take the medication (as well as the dosage, etc.). Also, children are expected to be instructed by their parents on the need to abide by school rules (no running in the parking lots, for example).