IF YOUR CHILD WAS INJURED ON SCHOOL PROPERTY, WHO IS LIABLE? (HERE’S WHAT PARENTS NEED TO KNOW)
In the U.S., approximately 14 million injuries are suffered every year by kids and teens. About a quarter of these injuries happen at or close to school, which makes sense, as young people spend such a substantial amount of time in school or in extra-curricular activities.
If you’re a parent, and your child is injured at a public school in this state, you will need to know what your family’s legal rights and options are. If you’ll keep reading, an Edinburg personal injury attorney will inform parents of what they should know about serious school-related injuries – and about your family’s rights.
Legal cases arising from school-related injuries can be exceedingly complicated. In many instances, a school district may not be targeted with a personal injury lawsuit. Governmental bodies enjoy “sovereign immunity,” which means they are legally protected from most lawsuits.
HOW DOES “SOVEREIGN IMMUNITY” PROTECT SCHOOLS FROM LAWSUITS?
Public schools in Texas have virtually no liability for injuries to students unless those injuries happen in a school bus accident. Most parents do not know that.
Texas school districts, for example, can’t be sued for simple negligence. “Gross” negligence – that is, an employee’s reckless or intentionally irresponsible behavior – must be the cause of any personal injury claim against a Texas school district, or the courts simply will not hear the case.
Without sovereign immunity, public schools in Texas would have no sports programs and probably no chemistry or shop classes.
Barbara Williams, speaking for the Texas Association of School Boards, told HoustonPress.com that the Association “advocates for sovereign immunity for school districts, but not necessarily for individual employees who violate school policy and use unauthorized force with children.”
WHAT DOES SOVEREIGN IMMUNITY MEAN FOR PARENTS?
What sovereign immunity means for parents is that if your child suffers an injury at a public school in Texas, and if you need to sue for compensation, you and your lawyer will need to show that an employee of the school acted intentionally or recklessly with gross negligence.
What is gross negligence? For a teacher, gross negligence might include, for example, ignoring a note from a child’s doctor and making the child take part in sports activities.
Simple negligence may be the cause of a child’s injury, but if a teacher fails to report that a child has been injured or fails to seek treatment for an injured child and that failure exacerbates the injury, the teacher may be liable for gross negligence.
DOES SOVEREIGN IMMUNITY EXTEND BEYOND SCHOOL EMPLOYEES?
Contractors, volunteers, and others who may have business at a public school – but who are not employees – are not protected by sovereign immunity. Public schools, in fact, have a “reasonable” obligation to protect students from the negligence of any non-employees on a school’s premises.
If your child suffers an injury in a Texas public school, the school district may or may not be liable. In south Texas, you should discuss the details of your child’s injury with an experienced Edinburg personal injury attorney who can determine if you qualify to take legal action.
WHAT IS A NOTICE OF CLAIM – AND WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?
Due to sovereign immunity, a personal injury claim that targets a state or local governmental body must follow a number of extra rules and procedures. First, you’ll need to file a “Notice of Claim” and submit that notice to the school district. Let your attorney help you.
File your Notice of Claim at once. School districts are entitled by Texas law to receive a Notice of Claim within six months of the accident which caused your child’s injury. The notice must describe the injury, the time and place of the incident, and it must provide details.
WHEN CAN YOU BRING A LEGAL ACTION AGAINST A SCHOOL DISTRICT?
After the Notice of Claim is filed, the school district will respond. It’s possible – but unlikely in most cases – that the district will make a settlement offer. Otherwise, if the school district denies your claim, or if there is no response after six months, you may proceed with legal action.
Texas public schools are supposed to provide a reasonably safe, secure environment for our kids. Any failure – that results in a student’s injury – to maintain generally accepted, minimum standards of care means that the school has been negligent.
But whether that negligence is “gross” negligence or simple negligence – and whether parents can sue for compensation – will hinge on exactly how the accident and the injury happened.
Injuries to students in Texas public schools may also generate product liability claims against the makers of defective or dangerous athletic and playground equipment, defective lab equipment, and defective school buses and bus parts.
HOW CAN A PERSONAL INJURY LAWYER HELP YOUR FAMILY?
If your son or daughter is injured at a public school or while participating in school activities in south Texas, an experienced Edinburg personal injury attorney can review the case and offer the candid and trustworthy legal advice that parents will need.
If gross negligence is the reason why your child was injured at a public school in Texas, your personal injury attorney will investigate the injury, review the medical records, and fight aggressively for the compensation – and for the justice – that your family will need and deserve.
If a child is injured at a Texas public school and the parents don’t have adequate legal grounds to bring a lawsuit, a personal injury lawyer can explain why. If the parents in a particular case have other options, an injury lawyer can explain those options.
IF YOUR CHILD IS HURT BY GROSS NEGLIGENCE, WHAT ARE YOUR RIGHTS?
When a child suffers a severe injury, the entire family is affected. The bills can add up fast after an injury, but a family is entitled by law to complete compensation for medical expenses and all of their other losses when a child is injured due to gross negligence at a Texas public school.
Texas school districts are obligated by state law to inspect their premises and playgrounds routinely, to maintain school buses adequately, and to check thoroughly and comprehensively the backgrounds of prospective employees before hiring them.
WHAT ABOUT INJURIES AT PRIVATE SCHOOLS?
If a child attends a private school in Texas and is injured at that school by negligence, no special rules will apply, and the parents will be able to pursue a “regular” personal injury claim.
Kids deserve the best. When your attorney can prove that your child was injured by gross negligence at a Texas public school, in most cases, the district will be held accountable.
If your child is injured at a school in Texas, talk with a good personal injury attorney. Do it immediately. Nothing is more important than our kids, their health, and their future. Make the call at once.
By Chris Brasure
Brasure Law Firm, PLLC was founded by Chris Brasure in 2006. His legal accomplishments are diverse and numerous. He is a fellow with the Texas Bar Foundation, was a delegate in the American Bar Association House of Delegates and holds a BA in political science and speech communication from Baylor University. He then went on to obtain his law degree from Baylor University Law School. Chris believes that education is absolutely critical to one’s success, so his firm now offers The Brasure Law Firm Scholarship to give back to the community and to help students who are seeking to pursue a higher education.