The Most Common Accident and Injury Claims in Schools
Posted in Legal Questions on March 31, 2017
School grounds are just as prone to accidents and injuries as other public or private properties. Schools are fraught with the potential for injuries that range from parking lot accidents and trips and falls to physical violence and bullying. Although claims against schools are more complex than typical personal injury lawsuits, it is possible for a student or parents of a minor student to sue a school or school district. Here are four of the most common accident and injury claims involving schools in California.
Every year in the United States, emergency rooms treat more than 200,000 children for playground-related injuries. Playground injuries encompass minor cuts and bruises through serious harm, such as brain injuries, broken bones, and amputations. Based on accident statistics, the most dangerous pieces of equipment are monkey bars, climbing equipment, and swings. Fatal accidents stem most often from strangulation (68%) and falls to playground surfaces (15%). Strangulation can occur from swings, jump ropes, and drawstrings on clothing.
Playground injury claims often take the form of negligence torts. A negligent supervisor, school, maintenance crew, or manufacturing company may be responsible for playground injuries depending on the nature of the incident. Defective or faulty equipment leading to injury takes the form of a product liability claim. Inadequate supervision, improper employee training, or a poorly maintained playground falls on the school or school district.
A study by the National Institute of Health reports that sports and recreational activities are the leading causes of musculoskeletal injuries in children. Emergency departments treat more than 2.6 million children ages 0 to 19 for these kinds of injuries. School sports can lead to ligament sprains, muscle strains, growth plate injuries, repetitive motion injuries, broken bones, spinal cord fractures, concussions, dehydration, and heat stroke.
A school may be liable for sports-related injuries if they result from negligent coaching, hazardous premises, or inadequate supervision. It is a coach’s job to know how to train and oversee sports practices and games to avoid preventable accidents. For example, a coach may be liable for a brain injury if he or she forces a player back on the field too soon after a previous head injury.
Hazardous Premises Accidents
Premises liability claims are common in school-related lawsuits. The law requires property owners – in most cases, the school district – to maintain a reasonably safe premises for children and employees. This involves repairing known hazards, searching for unknown dangers, and posting adequate warnings of known but unrepaired hazards. Failure to obey these duties can result in harmful slip, trips, and falls; elevator/escalator accidents; parking lot accidents; swimming pool accidents; fires; and toxic chemical exposure. Slips, trips, and falls are the most common, making up about 55% of all accidents in educational settings.
Many personal injuries stem from violence and intentional harm on school grounds. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were about 486,400 nonfatal violent victimizations on school grounds between students ages 12 to 18 in 2014. School violence encompasses bullying (both student-student and teacher-student), pushing, fights, gang violence, and assaults. School violence can lead to both physical and emotional harms. Incidents at school can result in injuries such as cuts, bruises, broken bones, gunshot wounds, and head trauma, to name a few common types of physical injuries. California schools have a duty to warn faculty of and duty to suspend students with violent propensities.
School-related injuries aren’t always visible. In 2015, 20.2% of students reported being victims of bullying on school property. Bullying can lead to severe emotional distress, negative behavioral outcomes, alcohol and drug use, and even suicide. Students may experience depression, severe social anxiety, fear, and post-traumatic stress disorder from exposure to violence at school. It is possible to sue a school for emotional distress in California under the right circumstances.