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Who is responsible if my kid is hurt at school?

Keeping kids safe can be a challenge and most parents worry at least somewhat when they cannot be with their children. However, there are some surroundings where they should be able to expect their kids to remain safe from injury. One of these places is at school. However, accidents happen everywhere, including on school grounds when children are supposed to be supervised by various teachers and aides. The question is, should you take the incident as "one of those things that happens" or should you get to the bottom of who's responsible for the injury and hold them accountable?

Every year 14 million children are injured, and over a quarter of those injuries happen in or around school grounds (Safe Kids.org). If one of those children is your child, you want to know who's responsible. To determine the answer, you need to look closer.

Intentional injuries

One of the first questions to ask if a child is injured at school is whether or not the incident causing the injury was due to someone's intentional act, such as one child being victim of a bully, or if they are intentionally hurt by a school staff member. In most cases if one kid harms another, it is the offending child's parents who carry most of the legal responsibility. However, there are cases where the school may share in that responsibility. If a child is known to be a bully, the school has an obligation to provide extra protection for the other students. Also, if a child was injured in a confrontation that was preplanned, the school could be held liable for not successfully stopping it.

When an adult causes an injury, there's a greater chance that the school may be held partially responsible, especially if it failed to conduct a thorough background check on their employee, or did not provide appropriate training or enough supervision.

When accidents happen

When a child is hurt apparently by accident, the question to ask is whether someone was negligent in his or her actions. If the school had been better at taking precautions, is it likely that the accident would have been avoided? If the answer is yes, there's a good chance that the school could be found negligent, and may carry at least part of the blame. Some situations that may indicate possible negligence include

  • Failing to provide or verify proper training
  • Failing to conduct a thorough background check on employees
  • Failure to maintain equipment in the playground or classroom to meet safety standards
  • Failure to have an emergency plan in place

Public vs. private school

If you believe the school is in the wrong after your child has been injured, how you proceed may be influenced by whether the school is a public or private school. A child injured in a private school is a less complex situation than one injured in public school. If an incident happened at a private school, the child's parents can work with a personal injury attorney to file a lawsuit almost immediately. Since public school is run by the government, filing a claim is more complicated, but not impossible. One of the main things to get right is the timing. If you believe the school bears full or partial responsibility, you must file a claim within 2-3 months after the injury. If the claim is denied, then a personal injury case can be pursued after the required amount of time passes.

Regardless of the circumstances that were in play when your child got hurt, it is important to get to the bottom of the incident in order to reduce the chance that it will happen to your child again, or someone else's. A personal injury attorney can examine the situation and help you build a stronger case as you advocate for your child.

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