From preschool, kindergarten, and all the way up to the university level, we trust our institutes of learning. We depend on the knowledge and wisdom imparted by educators, the guidance offered by counselors, and the nutrition and physical fitness provided by dining staff and athletic coaches.
For parents and guardians, placing trust in a school can be a big task, even under the best of circumstances. And if it feels like a school has violated that trust by allowing a student to be seriously injured while under the care of school employees, it’s natural for parents to begin asking: Can I file a personal injury lawsuit against a school?
This is a difficult question to answer. There is a multitude of factors that affect whether a school can be sued for a student’s injury. In some cases, the school may be shielded by law from liability. In other cases, the school might not be liable, but another party may be. In other situations, suing an individual employee may be more appropriate than filing a personal injury lawsuit against a school.
In cases where it is determined that the school can be held liable, you may find it is in your family’s best interest to file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault institution. These cases are highly complex, and we at the Law Office of Todd W. Burris are committed to meeting the high standards of honesty, conscientiousness, and persistence to which we hold ourselves in every case we take.
From our first meeting, we will be forthcoming about your legal options and the advantages and challenges of your case. When your child was hurt because of someone’s negligence, we will do everything in our power to make sure that the appropriate party is held responsible and that your family’s financial future is secured.
Are Schools Immune From Personal Injury Lawsuits?
Whether it is a public or a private institution, any school in Kentucky has a duty to protect, care for, and supervise its students to a reasonable degree. This includes maintaining safe premises and taking steps to prevent foreseeable hazards from causing injury.
When discussing personal injury lawsuits involving a school or school employee as the defendant, it’s important to remember that public schools are government bodies. Therefore, the conditions and rules for filing a school lawsuit will change based on whether the school is public or privately owned.
The theory of sovereign immunity, the legal doctrine that protects government agencies such as public schools from lawsuits, may apply in some cases. This doctrine means that filing a personal injury lawsuit against a public school will have to follow very strict parameters and meet very specific criteria, if it is even possible to take legal action at all.
Your personal injury lawyer will need to determine and prove negligence for your case to move forward. Unlike many types of personal injury cases, proving partial or some negligence may not be enough. It may be necessary to demonstrate that a school was grossly negligent for a case to be successful. Part of that is showing that the school or its employees acted without reasonable care or even willingly created the conditions that led to the student’s harm.
While schools might not be immune from lawsuits in all situations, it will always be a challenge to sufficiently prove negligence when you file a personal injury lawsuit against a school. Your lawyer will need to establish that the school or its employee(s) acted far outside the bounds of what can reasonably be expected from an institute that provides care and education to students.
What Circumstances May Be Grounds to Sue a School?
To file a personal injury lawsuit against an educational institution, the incident usually needs to have taken place on its grounds or while the injured victim was taking part in school-related activities. In Kentucky, teachers, coaches, principals, vice-principals, school administrators, athletic directors, counselors, bus drivers, or other individual employees may be found to have acted negligently.
In many school-involved personal injury lawsuits, more than one party will be named as a defendant. One of the more frequently-cited legal theories in school lawsuits involves negligent supervision. This means that a staff or faculty member was not carefully supervising a situation, and a student was injured as a result. Premises liability laws may apply in other cases in which poor maintenance or property neglect led to an accident.
If one of the scenarios listed below caused a student to be injured, there might be grounds to file a personal injury lawsuit against a school. However, keep in mind that the presence of one of these factors does not guarantee that a lawsuit will be justified or successful. School personal injury lawsuits may involve:
- Unsupervised recesses, lunch periods, or classroom time
- Unclean kitchen facilities, contaminated foods, or violations of food safety standards
- A child fed food to which they are severely allergic
- Poorly maintained facilities that present a significant risk to students
- Known hazards left unrepaired, such as broken playground equipment or elevators
- Failing to properly screen or train teachers, coaches, and other school staff members
- Athletic coach behavior that puts a student’s physical health at risk
- Reckless or impaired driving on the part of a school bus driver
- Facilities unaccommodating to students with physical disabilities
- Circumstances that allow discrimination, harassment, excessive punishment, education malpractice, bullying, sexual abuse, or misconduct to occur
- School employees who broke laws and injured students as a result of their actions
How to File a Personal Injury Lawsuit Against a School
If your child was involved in a school-related accident in Kentucky, your first step should be to speak with an experienced attorney. As we’ve previously mentioned, personal injury lawsuits filed against schools are unique from other types of personal injury cases. A conversation with a qualified attorney will help you determine whether your case has the potential to move forward. If you are considering filing a lawsuit against a school, then set up a case evaluation with a personal injury lawyer you trust.
To prepare for the first meeting, gather as much evidence as possible to support your story. This will help your lawyer understand the precise circumstances and all factors involved in the accident and injury. Some information that you may want to compile includes:
- Any insight about the school and its teachers
- Details about the student’s education and history at the institute
- Information about medical factors (like an allergy) that may have been involved
- Pictures of injuries or damaged property (like a broken railing)
Medical bills and records of treatment, emails, text messages, or other communications relevant to the incident may all be helpful to your lawyer as well.
Your lawyer will also be able to ask questions that can help you think of other documents or proof that may support your claim. You can expect that your personal injury attorney will need to conduct numerous interviews with parties, including:
- The injured student
- Involved school personnel
- Witnesses of the incident
- Classmates and fellow students
- Medical professionals
- Expert witnesses
We don’t promise that filing a personal injury lawsuit against a school will be easy. But we do guarantee that the Law Office of Todd W. Burris will put in whatever hard work is necessary to make sure your family sees justice. If our law firm takes your case, you can be confident and assured that we will always have your best interests in mind. We know there are often sensitive, confidential, and distressful matters in school injury cases. We always treat you and your family with the respect and compassion you deserve.