Can You Sue if Your Child Suffers Personal Injury at School?

classroom where a school accident might happen

Laws about whether or not you can file a lawsuit against a school vary from state to state. In California you certainly can, but first you must file a Notice of Claim within six months of the date of injury. School districts are government entities and as such are protected by what is known as “sovereign immunity.” However, exceptions can be made when an injury on school property was due to negligence and could have been prevented.

School Injury Lawsuit Filed by Parkland Shooting Victims

Families of two of the students injured at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting on Feb. 14 are filing several lawsuits against school and law enforcement agencies. Personal injury attorneys representing the students and their parents claim that law enforcement, Broward County and Broward County Public Schools were negligent in their duties to protect students from the gunman.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High SchoolAnthony Borges and Kyle Laman, 15, spent weeks in the hospital recovering from gunshot wounds after a former student, 19, opened fire at the school and killed 17 students and teachers with an assault rifle.

Borges’ personal injury lawyer wrote, “The failure of Broward County Public Schools and of the Principal and School Resource Officer to adequately protect students, and in particular our client, from life-threatening harm were unreasonable, callous and negligent. Such action or inaction led to the personal injuries sustained by my client.”

Gun Threats at Roseville Schools

Our own Sacramento and Roseville communities aren’t immune to the possibility of gun violence in schools. The month of February saw a number of high school lockdowns in Granite Bay, Elk Grove, Roseville and Sacramento. Thankfully, these investigations only revealed false alarms and empty threats. Oakmont High School in Roseville faced a more serious challenge when a gun actually was brought to campus by a student. The gun was found and two arrests were made without anyone getting getting injured on school property.

Who is Responsible for School Injuries?

Generally speaking, schools are required to provide a safe environment for students, but they can’t guarantee a child’s safety. They must take reasonable steps to protect you child from personal injury at school, such as:

  • Making sure your child isn’t harmed by other students or staff.
  • Making sure no one enters the school without permission.
  • Keeping the school building and grounds in good repair.

In most personal injury cases, it comes down to a question of negligence. If school officials did something (or failed to do something) that made the premises unsafe, the school may be liable. Here are some examples of when the school may be at fault for a student’s injury:

  • A teacher or school administrator received a warning or threat and failed to report it.
  • Emergency evacuation plans were inadequate or poorly executed.
  • A student was injured due to structural damage (e.g. broken stairs) that wasn’t repaired.
  • A stranger was allowed to enter the school without permission.
  • Cafeteria food wasn’t cooked properly, or served past its expiration date.

What You Can Do to Protect Your Child

children getting emergency first-aid training

Anthony Borges (mentioned above) was shot five times while heroically closing and locking a classroom door to protect the students inside. He then saved his own life by applying a tourniquet, which he had learned to do in Boy Scouts.

As an active supporter of The Boy Scouts of America, I strongly encourage you to make sure that your kids get some emergency first-aid training. Other than Scouts, there are a number of organizations that offer low-cost training, and the Red Cross is always a good place to start.

Legal Action After an Injury at School

Claims against schools, police departments, and other government entities must follow a strict process. Failure to follow the process and meet the deadlines mean that you could miss your chance at getting the compensation you deserve. If your child sustained a personal injury at school, make sure to hire an experienced personal injury attorney who has won cases against state or local government agencies.

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