Injuries at School: Who’s Liable?
When we send our kids to school, we put our trust in the adults there to keep them safe and sound. Few responsibilities are as important as that of the teachers, principals, and guardians charged with safeguarding the most precious people in our lives.
Sadly, students do sometimes suffer injury in the course of a school day, and the school’s negligence is often to blame. In spite of their legal duties and the extensive training they receive, school officials can unwittingly create dangerous conditions or fail to address unsafe situations, giving rise to student injury.
The gym class is an especially common site for schoolhouse injuries. In fact, according to the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, more than 60,000 students are injured in gym class every year (and that’s in the United States alone).
Not all of those injuries are attributable to school negligence — but too many of them are. When school officials fail to meet their legal duty of care toward your children, they can be held financially accountable for the injuries that result.
At Kaplan Lawyers PC, we understand that conflict with your child’s school can be complicated. After all, he or she is likely still enrolled there, and some parents are reluctant to “make waves,” even when their children have been unfairly injured. We also know that most teachers and school administrators are noble and hardworking people who do their very best in the face of demanding expectations. Still, we believe parents should never be asked to bear the financial burden of a school system’s negligence all by themselves.
We have many years of experience in gym class injuries and school liability. Schools have extensive resources and often operate like a bureaucracy, making it difficult for parents to take a stand. Even private schools tend to take hard stands in the face of parental complaints or concerns. But with our experienced New York school accident attorneys on your side, you can level the playing field and insist on justice.
When Is a School Liable for Gym Class Injuries?
Not every gym injury is the school’s fault. For example, a student who volunteers to participate in a game of basketball and then trips in the normal course of playing that sport is unlikely to have a claim against the school, absent some evidence that the school was negligent or unreasonable in making that activity more dangerous than it otherwise would have been.
To establish school liability for gym class injuries, the plaintiff must generally demonstrate that the school failed to take reasonable steps to prevent the injury or that the school’s own actions created a dangerous situation. In other words, the school must have been negligent.
It’s important to note that “negligent” does not mean “intentional.” School officials rarely intentionally cause injuries. Even unintentional action (or inaction) is enough to establish school liability if it was unreasonable or in violation of the school’s duties.
So how do you distinguish a “pure accident” from negligence?
That can be complicated, especially in a gym class. The distinction usually comes down to the specific facts and circumstances surrounding the injury.
As New York school accident attorneys, we can sit down with accident victims and their parents to explore the many questions that help determine whether the school might be liable.
These questions include:
- Was the class mandatory?
- Did the student voluntarily participate in the activity?
- Were there any unsafe conditions in the gym?
- Did the activity take place somewhere other than the gym?
- How did the teacher or coach behave?
- Have similar accidents happened there in the past?
- Was the activity unusual in any way?
- Were there eyewitnesses?
- Does the victim suffer from any medical conditions relevant to the injury?
- Did you see a school nurse or doctor?
- How severe are the injuries?
- Was an adult present for supervision?
These are just a few of the factors that might be relevant. The answer to any one of these questions is not necessarily decisive on the issue of liability. Never draw any conclusions about school liability for gym class injuries until you’ve talked with our experienced New York school accident attorneys.
Unusual Gym Class Injuries
People tend to think about gym class injuries in terms of cuts, bruises, fractures, slip and falls, and other routine injuries. While those and similar damages can actually be quite serious and may very well be compensable, we also want parents to look for less obvious injuries. Examples include:
- Heat exhaustion
- Heat stroke
- Blood sugar issues
- Failure to respond to a student’s health-related complaints or concerns
- Concussions (which may be much more severe than anyone realizes)
- Compartment syndrome
- Inadequate adult supervision leading to bullying, assault, or an accidental injury
- Cardiac or cerebral injuries (heart attack, stroke, etc.)
- Injuries that develop gradually over time
- Preexisting conditions made worse by school negligence
- Physical and/or emotional distress caused by a teacher or coach who insists on excessive activity or exhibits emotional abuse.
These are only a few examples of the less obvious gym class injuries parents should keep an eye out for. Schools may be liable in many of these circumstances.
Questions About Gym Class Injuries and School Liability? Ask Us.
If you or your child has been injured in a gym class in New York, the talented legal team at Kaplan Lawyers PC can help. We have considerable experience in this area, and we are dedicated to fighting for the justice your family deserves.
Our office is conveniently located in New York City, with legal representation available statewide. Contact our office to set up a free consultation with us today.