Most teachers, bus drivers, nurses, and administrators do everything possible to ensure that students in their school district are safe and well cared-for from the time they are picked up in the morning to the time the final dismissal bell rings. Unfortunately, school injuries are still a common occurrence — and many of them are the preventable products of negligence. In this article, Philadelphia school bus accident lawyer Brent Wieand will explain some common types and causes of student injuries, and discuss the basic legal components that make up a successful lawsuit against a school district.
Accidents at School: Student Injury Causes and Statistics
Most school-related injuries stem from one of three causes: gym class or sports accidents, school bus crashes, and violence.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which works with the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice, about 749,200 nonfatal injuries and acts of violence were reported among 12- to 18-year-old students in 2012. According to a nationally representative survey of high schoolers taken the following year:
-About 8% of students reported being in a fight during the past 12 months.
-About 7% reported being threatened or injured at least once during the past 12 months.
-About 5% reported carrying a weapon within the past 30 days.
-About 20% reported being victims of bullying.
Common injuries reported by the CDC included contusions (bruising), broken bones, lacerations, head trauma (e.g. concussions, traumatic brain injury), and gunshot wounds. The CDC also pointed out that school violence can lead to anxiety, depression, and debilitating phobias.
School bus accidents were another common cause of student injuries. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), over 1,200 school bus crashes occurred from 2003 to 2012, killing an average of 135 innocent children each year. Hundreds more suffer serious injuries, some of which are permanently disabling.
Athletic injuries from sports clubs or gym class are yet another major safety issue. A recent report by non-profit group Safe Kids Worldwide found that more than 1.35 million youths suffered sports injuries serious enough to require hospitalization in 2012. When school gyms or sports clubs use defective safety equipment, or fail to properly supervise the students, it’s easy for a concussion, bone fracture, or soft tissue injury to occur.
Other causes of school injuries include:
–Medical malpractice by school nurses and medical staff.
-Unsafe property conditions such as broken railings or cracked steps.
-Slippery, icy sidewalks which aren’t properly maintained during fall and winter.
-Negligent supervision during recess, lunch, or class.
Can I Sue My Son or Daughter’s School for Negligence?
When you are first informed that your child has been injured, all you can think about is rushing to be by their side. Then, once the initial shock subsides, you start to think about suing the school district for allowing such an accident to happen.
But how do you know if you have a case?
The short answer is that you cannot be certain without consulting an attorney. Because every situation varies on a case-by-case basis, it is impossible to definitively say whether or not you have grounds for a lawsuit until you discuss your child’s accident in detail with an experienced personal injury lawyer. With that in mind, four elements are common to every injury lawsuit:
-First, there must be a duty of care. All teachers and school staff have a duty of care to protect students from physical and psychological harm while on school grounds or school property (including buses).
-Next, the duty of care must have been breached, meaning a teacher, school bus driver, etc. either acted inappropriately or failed to act appropriately during the course of his or her duties. Some examples might include:
-Failing to perform adequate property maintenance, leading to a slip and fall accident.
-Failing to adequately supervise students during class, lunch, recess, etc., known as negligent supervision.
-Abusing a child or using violence to discipline a student.
-Third, harm to the student must have been caused by negligence, recklessness, or other misconduct (“causation”).
-Finally, the student must have suffered an injury (“damages”). While a harmless close call is frightening and infuriating, actual harm must have occurred in order for your family to have a case.
While a legal concept called “sovereign immunity” normally grants liability protections to government entities, such as public schools, 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 8522 makes exceptions for “vehicle liability” (“the operation of any motor vehicle in the possession or control of a Commonwealth party,” including school buses), “medical-professional liability” (“health care employees of Commonwealth,” including school nurses), and various road and sidewalk conditions. That being said, suing a public entity is still a little different than suing a private entity, particularly with regard to legal deadlines. If you’re considering legal action, it’s important to act quickly.
If your son or daughter was injured at school, you should strongly consider speaking to an attorney. Whether your child’s accident occurred during class, in the hallways between lessons, or on a school bus, your family may be entitled to compensation to help with your child’s medical care, hospital bills, and other expenses related to the injury. Call injury attorney Brent Wieand at (800) 481-5206 right away to set up a free and completely confidential case evaluation. Your family’s information will be kept private, and you will never be charged any fees unless Brent makes a recovery for you.
***Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes. It is not legal advice and should not be used as legal advice. Brent’s law office is located in Philadelphia, PA, and serves clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey.***