School District Liability for Child Injury Accidents
Schools do not just place children go to for learning. They also take part in playground games, physical education and extracurricular activities. Thousands of Oregon school children are injured every year, some seriously, in almost as many ways as there are injuries. Portland injury lawyers are frequently asked if the school can be held liable when a child is injured on school property. The honest answer in most cases is “probably not.”
Oregon, like most other states, has its own rules that grant school districts a certain amount of immunity. Even if the school is actually responsible for your child’s injuries and you can prove it, you may not be able to file a lawsuit. However, this immunity does have exceptions, so as a parent you need to find out how to determine if the school is liable for injuries to your child. For starters, if you can show negligence, extreme negligence or criminal activity as the cause of injuries to your child, you may be able to file a claim against the school.
Before you even consider attempting to sue an Oregon school district, speak to Portland child school injury lawyers who will explain the circumstances under which a claim may be successful. An experienced personal injury lawyer will be able to explain Oregon’s schools’ immunity status and whether or not you can even file a claim. If the school in question does have immunity, the attorney will still explore with you potential exceptions to that immunity.
What about child injuries at private schools?
Oregon governmental immunity generally applies only to public school districts. Private schools will be protected by clauses in their contracts with the paying parents, and they are certain to be very well insured. However, without the immunity enjoyed by public schools, there may be even more situations in which you can make a claim against a private school or against their insurance company. Situations in which this could apply are those in which the school failed to exercise due care to prevent a foreseeable injury to your child. In other words, they did use a degree of care that a school would be expected to use to prevent harm that could or should have been anticipated. To file a successful lawsuit, it would be necessary for Portland child school injury lawyers to prove:
- The school owed a duty of care to your child
- The school breached that duty of care
- This breach of duty was the actual and proximate cause of your child’s injuries
The burden of proof is on you, not the school
For any Oregon court to be convinced that you have met your burden of proof, your attorney will have to cover two main factors.
First, they will consider the cause of the injury or how it occurred. Was your child adequately supervised by a school employee? This is a tricky area. If teachers were negligent during the course and scope of their employment, the school may be considered liable. On the other hand, if the teacher was doing something outside the normal course and scope of their employment, the school will probably claim that they cannot be held liable.
Second, was the injury to your child foreseeable and therefore something the school should have been expected to prevent? Accidents that fall under this category could include:
- A child injured from falling off playground equipment
- A child injured or becoming very sick due to unsanitary conditions at the school
- Bumping or tripping over an object (a common cause of injuries to school children)
Establishing a duty of care and a breach of that duty is only the beginning when Portland child school injury lawyers pursue a case against a school. The next thing the court will look to is what’s known as “causation.” The court will ask the lawyer to prove that if the school had taken the proper precautions, the child would not have been injured, and that their not taking the proper precautions was the actual cause of the injury. And even when this is proven, there is still the question of “proximate cause,” which seeks to determine if there were any unforeseeable events that also contributed to your child’s injury. If there were, then the court will most likely find the school is not negligent. If your lawyer can show that no intervening events contributed to your child being injured, and has also proven all the other elements covered above, then you have successfully proven the school’s negligence and liability.
File a Claim with the insurance company first
Before launching a lawsuit, try filing a claim with the school’s insurance company. Make sure you include your child’s medical bills and medical reports. If your child has experienced pain and suffering, this should be included in your claim, because any offer you receive will be for an amount that represents a full and final settlement of your claim. If you accept it, no lawsuit can be filed against the school at any stage in the future. Once you receive a settlement offer, it would certainly be a good idea to show it to Portland child school injury lawyers before you sign any acceptance. They will advise you whether the settlement seems fair, and if it’s not, what your options are for going forward.
It should be very clear at this stage that filing a claim against any school is a very tricky proposition. However, there’s no question that children are frequently injured because school authorities don’t do enough to protect the people they are meant to be looking after. If this has happened to your child, don’t automatically assume the school is immune from liability. Contact a team of dedicated Portland child school injury lawyers to discuss your potential courses of action. If a school has shown negligence and your child has suffered as a result, you should be able to get the compensation you’ll need to pay the medical bills and to help your child recover.