When parents send their children to school on weekday mornings, most do not want to think about the various accidents and child injuries that could happen in the classroom or during school-sponsored athletics. Yet school injuries are a serious problem in Indiana and across the country.
While the types of injuries sustained by an elementary school student might be distinct from those suffered by a high school athlete, all children and teens are at risk when they enter the classroom or engage in school-related activities.
Who is responsible when a child is injured in school in Indiana? Depending on the nature of the accident and injury, the answer to that question can vary.
Types of Accidents at School and School-Related Activities
As soon as your child boards the school bus in the morning, it is possible that the school district may be liable for any accidents that occur. Generally speaking, schools are required to keep children reasonably safe from harm. In other words, bus drivers, administrators, teachers, and other authority figures at school must take steps to limit the risk of accidents and injuries to students.
When someone in charge at a school behaves negligently or fails to take reasonable safety precautions, kids can suffer serious injuries.
Examples of school-related injuries include:
- School bus and school transportation-related accidents.
- Personal injury resulting from a defective children's product, such as laboratory equipment, sports equipment, and playground equipment.
- Food poisoning.
- Exposure to hazardous chemicals or other substances.
- Traumatic brain injury while playing sports.
- Spinal cord injury while playing sports.
- Slip and fall accident in the classroom or on the playground.
- Assault by an adult.
These are just a handful of examples of the kinds of accidents and injuries that can happen at school or while en route to the classroom. In some instances, the accident is the result of someone else’s negligence. For example, a classroom teacher might have been negligent in failing to clean up a spill, which led to a serious slip and fall accident. Or, a school employee may have stored food improperly, resulting in one or more cases of food poisoning. Alternately, a defective product could have caused your child’s injury. In such a case, it is unlikely that a teacher or other school employee’s negligence played a substantial role.
Determining Liability for School Injuries in Indiana
Who is responsible for child injuries at school? Liability can vary depending on the specific facts of your case. Was negligence a primary factor in your child’s injury? Or did a defective product cause injuries to your child? To better understand situations in which a school employee’s negligence caused injuries to your child—in which case the school may be held liable—we should take a look at some examples of school employee negligence:
- The school district improperly trained a school bus driver, and the driver got into a serious traffic collision. Your child was riding on the bus when the accident occurred and suffered a serious personal injury as a result. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), about 142 people suffer fatal injuries in school transportation-related accidents each year.
- A child spills water in the classroom, and the teacher sees the spill but does not clean it up. Another child slips and falls in the water spill, and that child sustains a brain injury.
- School cafeteria employees are trained in food safety but fail to properly store lunch food. The food develops bacteria, and students become ill after consuming it.
- A teacher failed to properly supervise young students at recess, and one of the students ran out into the street and got hit by a car.
- School administrators knew about specific bullying incidents against one student and failed to take action. The bullying intensified, and the student suffered serious harm.
- The school district failed to create a plan for a natural disaster, and several students fell and suffered injuries in the flawed evacuation process.
- School officials noticed a damaged handrail on the stairs but simply removed it instead of repairing or replacing it. A student slipped and fell while walking down the stairs.
- A child’s football coach failed to follow concussion protocols, and a student athlete suffered sports injuries at school. According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS), nearly 450,000 sports-related head injuries require treatment in emergency departments each year.
These are just some examples of negligent behavior that could result in school liability for child injuries. In addition to accidents that result from negligence, parents should also know that defective products often are the cause of serious school injuries. Product liability is distinct from negligence theories of law. It can allow parents to hold designers, manufacturers, and marketers of products strictly liable for injuries at school. A few examples of defective product claims involving school injuries might include:
- A school team’s youth football helmets contained a design defect, and that defect led to several players suffering preventable head injuries on the field.
- The slide on a playground was not manufactured properly. Indeed, the slide contained a manufacturing defect, and as a result, a child fell off the slide and suffered a broken bone.
- When marketing a slide projector for classroom use, the company failed to warn consumers that the device can become hot enough to burn the skin. A student touched the projector and suffered a burn injury.
Seek Advice from a Child Injury Attorney in Indiana
If your child was seriously hurt at school, you can speak with an experienced child injury attorney in Indianapolis to discuss your situation. School injuries happen frequently, and they can result from defective helmets, playground equipment, and other children’s items. Contact our Indianapolis personal injury law firm today to learn more about your legal rights.