Student injuries at school are unfortunately an unavoidable occurrence. When a student is injured on school property or during a school activity, what legal liability does the school have for the student’s medical expenses and other losses caused by their injuries?
Premises Liability Claims
A school may be held liable for student injuries caused by a defective or unsafe condition of the school property. This type of liability is known as “premises liability,” which arises from the duty of property owners to keep their premises safe for lawful visitors to the property. In the context of schools and students, schools owe a duty to keep school property free of conditions that could be dangerous to students because schools act “in loco parentis,” or in the place of the student’s parents.
Schools are obligated to monitor school property for foreseeable hazards and to remove those hazards or keep students away from them. Common hazards that lead to student injuries include defective or broken playground equipment, slippery floors, broken stairs, or the presence of health hazards such as mold or lead.
Student Injuries Inflicted by Others
Some student injuries are inflicted by their classmates, whether unintentionally during horseplay or intentionally during a fight. Schools and their staff have an obligation to properly supervise the student body and to take action to protect students from one another. This may include intervening in a fight or horseplay between students and taking disciplinary action against students who put classmates at risk of injury. While schools are not always liable for injuries caused by bullying, they might be held responsible if they had notice of ongoing bullying and failed to take reasonable steps to prevent foreseeable injury.
Schools also have an obligation to protect students from school staff. This duty includes conducting background checks on employees. Schools may be liable for physical or sexual abuse inflicted on students by staff members.
Exceptions to School Liability
There are some circumstances in which schools will not be held liable for student injuries. This includes injuries that occur on school property outside of the hours when the campus is open to students, or that occur outside of school-sponsored events such as field trips.
Schools are also typically not held liable for injuries that occur during organized sports and athletic events, since student-athletes assume the normal risk of injury inherent in athletic activities. However, schools might be held liable for gross negligence that leads to injuries for student-athletes, such as students suffering heat stroke during practices or sending student-athletes back into a game or an event after they have suffered a concussion.
Public schools are also entitled to the same governmental immunity afforded to all state and local government agencies and departments. This means that families of students who are injured at school will need to comply with the procedural requirements of the New Jersey Tort Claims Act to pursue an injury claim. In addition, some private schools may also attempt to claim charitable immunity in response to a student injury claim.
Contact an Edison Personal Injury Lawyer to Discuss Your School Accident Case in New Jersey
Did you or a loved one sustain serious injuries due to a school accident in New Jersey? Don’t let the medical bills pile up while you wait for the negligent party or their insurance company to do the right thing. Right now, you need an aggressive personal injury attorney on your side, fighting to get you the compensation you need, want, and deserve. The skilled attorneys at Lombardi and Lombardi, P.A. represent clients injured because of school accidents in Woodbridge, Old Bridge, Piscataway, New Brunswick, and throughout New Jersey. Call (732) 906-1500 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a free consultation about your case. We have an office conveniently located at 1862 Oak Tree Road, Edison, NJ 08820, as well as offices in Edison, Brick, Freehold, and Point Pleasant Beach.
The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.