My Child Was Injured on a School Field Trip. Is the School Liable?
Posted in Legal Questions on August 15, 2016
Too often, supervisors with no adequate child safety training chaperone school field trips.
Between lack of knowledge about child safety and looking after children they’re unfamiliar with,
chaperones are at high risk of being negligent. No one can predict a bus accident, but many field
trip injuries are 100% preventable. If your child sustains an injury on a field trip, the courts may
hold a negligent party responsible for damages.
Negligence and Child Injury Cases
Parents should reasonably expect organizations to take care of children during field trips. Parents
have the right to assume chaperones will take due care to ensure the children’s well-being. When
a school employee or chaperone fails in this duty, parents understandably want compensation for
resultant injuries. However, the courts may or may not hold a school responsible for injuries
during a field trip, depending on the facts of each case.
In California, the Education Code includes a provision that grants school districts absolute
immunity for personal injury claims on field trips. Provision 35330 states that those on the field
trip waive all claims against the school district for illness, injury, or death during field trips.
However, this provision is ambiguous in regard to negligent employees.
Field trips where district personnel breached their legal duty to keep students reasonably safe
may give parents the opportunity to obtain compensation. Proving negligence is the most
important step in these cases. In a field trip injury case, you must prove the school district
breached its reasonable duty and that your child sustained an injury because of this negligence.
A permission slip or waiver stating you will not hold the school responsible for any injuries your
child sustains during a field trip doesn’t necessarily protect a school and its employees. These
release forms typically apply in cases where no one could have reasonably foreseen or prevented
the injury, as in cases of pure accident. If, however, you prove an employee’s gross negligence
caused the injury, the courts may not see the release form as valid protection.
When Does the Court Hold a School Liable?
The factors a court looks at to determine if a school is liable for a field trip injury vary on a case-
by-case basis. A few common factors that influence the decision include:
- Age of students involved
- Location of the field trip
- Role of the personal responsible for the injury
- Student’s relative fault in the injury
- Precautions against injury the school took
- If the school was private or public
Many state laws protect public schools from liability for field trip injuries, while private schools
do not have the same protection. However, many private schools use permission slips that may
have the same effect.
The courts will most likely hold a school liable for the actions of its employees when an incident
involving gross negligence causes a child’s injuries. Gross negligence means the school failed to
take obvious safety measures that even a careless person would have taken. If you have evidence
that a school or employee could have prevented your child’s injuries had they taken due
precautions, the courts may find the school responsible, regardless of the rules in the Education
Code or if there were permission slips.
Call an Experienced Child Injury Lawyer Near You
California’s child injury laws are complex. Your best chance at receiving compensation for your
child’s injuries is to hire an experienced local lawyer who specializes in school district
negligence. At Panish Shea & Boyle, LLP, we have years of experience filing claims against
school districts in Los Angeles, Irvine, and beyond. To find out if you have a case against your
child’s school for a field trip injury, call (877) 800-1700 for a free consultation.