When a child is hurt at school, it may be difficult to determine who (if anyone) should be held liable. While the accident may have arisen from unavoidable circumstances, accidents and injuries at school often do result from the action or inaction of school officials, staff, or other students.
Furthermore, an injury sustained at school that does not initially seem to be the fault of the school district may actually hold the district legally liable.
For example, if another child strikes your child with a sharp object found on the playground, you might initially assume that the other student is legally responsible for your child’s injuries. But, if the school did not properly inspect the grounds for dangerous objects, they can be deemed negligent and held liable for damages.
Even if your child sustains injuries on the school bus, and not on school property, the school district may still be held liable for the injuries. On the flip side, New York law states that it is the duty of each board of education to protect all faculty members from financial loss arising out of any claim of alleged negligence.
In this post, we will discuss what you need to know in order to file a personal injury complaint against the school.
If Your Child Has Been Hurt by Bullying
The Dignity for All Students Act (DASA) prohibits harassment by employees or students on school property or at school functions. It also prohibits discrimination against a student based on his/her race, color, weight, national origin, ethnic group, religion, disability, sexual orientation, gender, or sex by school employees or students.
DASA is New York’s first statewide anti-bullying legislation that comprehensively acts against bullying in public elementary and secondary schools. DASA protects New York students by promoting tolerance and diversity.
If your child has been the victim of bullying at school, call the Civil Rights Bureau at (212) 416-8250. Furthermore, the school may be legally liable if it had notice of a risk of a dangerous situation and failed to take steps to prevent foreseeable harm.
Can Parents Sue NY School Districts for their Child’s Injuries?
To start, a school system is considered a “political subdivision” and has what is called “sovereign immunity”. In simpler terms, a school system and its employees are immune from lawsuits, except under specific conditions.
However, all states have waived this immunity and will allow lawsuits for compensation when the negligence of the school district or one of its employees causes a student’s injury.
While this leads to action being taken to ensure justice for an injured student, it also comes with very specific procedures that you are required to follow before you’re allowed to file the lawsuit in court. Failure to follow these procedures may result in an immediate dismissal of any lawsuit filed later on.
If a student’s sustained injury is caused by unsafe property conditions, a case of personal injury should be filed on the school’s premises liability. School officials act in loco parentis, or “in the place of parents”, meaning that the children are in their care while at school.
Therefore, the school officials have the responsibility to prevent known dangers from harming students. Dangers include, but are not limited to:
- Faulty playground equipment
- Slippery floors
- Unsanitary conditions
- Presence of toxic substances or materials
On the other hand, injuries to students may be caused by another person, whether that person is a school faculty member or another student. Either way, teachers and other school officials have a special duty of care required for the students in their charge.
This special duty of care requires school officials to take reasonable steps to keep students from harming one another and use appropriate care and conduct when hiring staff. That means hiring enough staff to properly supervise the students while on the premises and using thorough background checks when hiring teachers, coaches, and other staff.