Can I Sue a School for Negligence?

A school is responsible for ensuring the safety of its students, and that includes providing a safe environment to learn in. When an unsafe situation arises, such as when a child is injured during recess or while waiting for the bus, parents may be able to sue the school for negligence.

There are many different reasons why a school might be held responsible for injuries sustained by its students. For example, if the school has an unsafe environment, they may have an obligation to make it safe. If there is not enough supervision at recess time and one student injures another student with a ball, it could be argued that the school should have supervised them more closely or put up barriers so that other children couldn’t come close to the injured child.

When Can I Sue a School?

As public school districts are usually considered agencies of a local municipal government, they generally cannot be sued under the concept of “sovereign immunity,” which means that the government is immune from lawsuits. However, most states permit people to sue them under specific circumstances. 

Many school districts allow themselves to be sued for negligence under the legal theories of negligent supervision or premises liability. In most situations, schools can also be sued for “gross negligence,” which means that a school employee must have intentionally taken an action that showed extreme indifference to or reckless disregard for the safety of others.

Negligent supervision cases require a plaintiff to prove that an injury was caused by the grossly negligent failure of a teacher or another individual responsible for overseeing students to properly supervise them. On the other hand, Premises liability cases involve injuries caused by a dangerous condition on school grounds that was caused by grossly negligent actions or failures to act. 

What Is the Penalty for Gross Negligence?

The penalty for gross negligence can include compensatory damages.

In civil cases where a defendant is determined to have committed ordinary negligence, they usually will only be required to pay compensatory damages, which are designed to make the injured party whole and reimburse them for the harm they suffered as a result of the injury. Some common types of compensatory damages include medical expenses, property damage, and lost wages.

What Are the 3 Levels of Negligence?

In the legal world, negligence is the act of being careless, inattentive or disregardful. There are three levels of negligence:

  • Ordinary Negligence
  • Gross Negligence
  • Willful Misconduct

Ordinary Negligence

Ordinary negligence occurs when a person does not exercise reasonable care and causes injury to another person due to their careless action. Generally, the law requires people to act how a reasonably careful person would under similar circumstances. When someone does something that a reasonable person would not do or fails to do something a reasonable person would do, it may be considered negligence. 

Gross Negligence

Gross negligence is more serious than ordinary negligence, and it occurs when someone acts with complete disregard for human life and/or safety. While an actor may not intend to hurt anyone, if an individual shows a lack of concern regarding whether harm might occur, they may be grossly negligent.

Willful Misconduct

Willful misconduct is the most serious form of negligence and can include blatant violations of law. To act with willful misconduct, a person must be aware of the high likelihood that their actions will cause significant harm to another and intentionally ignore that risk. 

When Should I Contact an Education Attorney?

If your child has been injured at school, you should contact an education attorney as soon as possible. Because you can only sue a school for negligence in limited circumstances, you will need a seasoned education lawyer to review the circumstances surrounding your child’s injury and determine if you are eligible to sue. The line between ordinary negligence and gross negligence can often be blurry. Still, a skilled attorney can ascertain whether you have a cognizable case against the school, school district, or another responsible party.

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About & RMO Lawyers

RMO LLP serves clients in San Diego, Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Orange County, and communities throughout California. Our founder, Scott E. Rahn has been named “Top 100 – Trust and Estate Litigation” by SuperLawyers, Trusts and Estates Litigator of the Year, and Best Lawyers in America for Litigation – Trusts and Estates.