When injuries occur during school hours, they are more likely to happen in the school’s gym than anywhere else on the preemies. Parents have the right to believe that schools will provide a safe haven for their children and protect them from bodily injury and undue harm. All schools have a legal duty of obligation to protect their students; this duty begins the minute the student steps on the school bus in the morning and ends when the student steps off the school bus at night. Although the school’s duty is not absolute, the courts typically rule that a school fulfills its duty of care when it does everything reasonably possible to protect its students. When a school neglects to do everything possible and it results in a student being injured, the courts have traditionally said that the school violated its duty of care.
Many Parents raise concerns about the liability of the school in regards to their child’s gym class injuries. Under what circumstances is the school liable? This blog post will cover the topic of gym class injuries with a review of the applicable law in addition to the evidence that you would need to succeed in a personal injury claim against a school.
Gym activities vary depending on the student’s age and abilities. For example, younger preschool and elementary students are less likely to participate in contact sports, but high school students are frequently herded into intra-class teams ready to compete in a wide range of sports activities.
More than 60,000 students are hurt each year during gym class activities according to the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. The majority of gym class injuries are soft tissue injuries like sprains, minor cuts and bruising, but a substantial number of more serious hard injuries occur, including head trauma, broken bones, broken teeth, eye injuries and more. While most injuries are unavoidable, it may occur because the school or physical education teacher was negligent.
When negligence occurs, the school is liable for the student’s injuries in addition to subsequent damages. Subsequent damages are things such as reimbursement for injured student’s medical bills, out-of-pocket expenses for medications, slings, crutches, and if a child is in high school and has a part-time job, for his or her lost wages. If a parent has to take time off work to take the child to and from treatment, the parents lost wages would be considered subsequent damage. A child’s pain, suffering and emotional distress also have to be taken into account.
Determining the difference between accident and negligence is the first step in determining if a parent would have a valid legal claim against a school. The nature of the gym class activity determines the nature of the school’s duty of care. Consider these two situations of someone slipping and falling. If a student slips and falls on the spilled water in a hallway, it may indicate the school’s negligence in not cleaning up the spill. But if a student slips and falls on water from perspiration during a gym class this is not a sign of negligence, it would be an accident.
If a child is hurt during a school gym class activity and it is believed that negligence caused the injury evidence is required to back up the claim. A legitimate injury claim cannot be made without proof of a child’s damages. Some examples of valid evidence would include:
- Photographs and videos
- School surveillance footage
- School records
- Witness statements
If an injury occurs at a public school, the parent filing the claim would go through a kind of tort claim process. There are strict time limits for tort claims, so acting quickly is imperative. Asking the school administrator for the appropriate tort claim injury form can do this. If the injury occurs at a private school, the school’s administrator can be asked for the name of the school’s insurance company.
The insurance adjuster will need copies of all medical bills, medical treatment records, and proof of other damages. The adjuster may also ask to take the child’s statement. It must also be taken into consideration that no matter how official the adjuster makes a child’s statement sound; a child does not have to give a recorded statement to process a claim. Many times, allowing a child to give a recorded statement is not a wise idea.
Depending on the nature of the injury it should be determined if hiring an attorney would be beneficial. If the child’s injuries are soft tissue, the parent can most likely handle the injury on their own but if they are more serious an experienced attorney is recommended because there is too much at stake. Attorneys can conduct a very thorough investigation. Oftentimes when an attorney is involved settle claims or trial wins will be substantially higher than a parent handling the claim by him or herself.
The responsibility for the care and safety of students rests on the shoulders of school boards and their employees. An important aspect of fulfilling this role is to recognize that there is an element of risk in all-physical activity and to act accordingly. To reduce the risk of a child being injured, gym inspections are of critical importance and law requires frequent inspections. Gym equipment poses a significant risk to students and the general public. It can present lift threatening risks if not properly inspected and maintained.
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