Child Injured at School? Know Your Rights when a School Breaches their Duty of Care in New Jersey
Schools are meant to be safe havens for children to learn, socialize, and grow. As parents, we entrust school staff members with the safety of our most valuable treasures—our children. However, while schools are generally safe environments, accidents can happen anywhere, and school grounds and buses are no exception.
When a child is injured at a New Jersey public school, the process of recovering damages for the child’s injuries and medical bills is different than if the child were injured somewhere else, like in a store or in a motor vehicle accident involving a private vehicle. Seeking guidance from a New Jersey personal injury lawyer at Cohen & Riechelson is important in any injury case, but especially when the injuries occurred at a public school.
Do Personal Injury Lawsuits Differ Between Public and Private Schools in New Jersey?
When it comes to liability exposure for the injuries of students on school grounds, public schools and private schools are not treated the same. Private schools are liable in the same way as any private party or business would be for their negligence in causing injuries to a person. Public schools are not completely immune from liability for injuries suffered by students on their premises; however, the legal doctrine of sovereign immunity, which protects public entities from lawsuits in certain circumstances, makes the process of recovering compensation different and puts limits on the damages that can be recovered.
The New Jersey legislature has addressed the issue of sovereign immunity and injury claims by passing the New Jersey Tort Claims Act (NJTCA). The Act created legal liability for public schools for injuries caused by the negligence of school employees while acting within the scope of their employment. Under the Act, you must file a claim within 90 days of the accident or date of injury. Then, if you plan to file a lawsuit, you must file within 6 months.
Responsibility for School Injuries Caused by Negligent School Management and Premises Liability
Some of the most common ways that children are injured at school include falling off playground equipment, slipping on wet floors, suffering injuries during physical education and extracurricular sports, and in school bus accidents. Children can also be injured while on school field trips if they are not properly supervised.
Not all of the situations necessarily involve negligence by the school or school employees. However, schools have a duty to provide a safe environment for students and to supervise them. A child could injure themselves on a playground without any fault by the school, but if the playground equipment is broken or unsafe for children, then the school may be liable for a child’s injuries that are caused as a result of the dangerous condition due to premises liability.
If a student is injured due to negligent supervision—when the school fails to provide proper supervision to students—then the school may be liable for resulting injuries to a child on the basis of negligence. For example, if a teacher of a kindergarten class leaves the children unattended or allows a child to wander off because the child is not being properly supervised and the child becomes injured as a result, then the school may be liable for the negligent actions of that teacher while working in the scope of his or her employment.
Recommended Actions Following a Child’s Injury at School
If your child is injured at school, the first thing you should do is, of course, seek medical treatment. Not only is this initial step important for the wellbeing of your child, but if you need to seek compensation for damages from the school following an injury, then it will be important to produce evidence of the child’s injury. In addition to documenting your child’s symptoms and physical injuries, the treating physician may also include notes about what happened and what caused the child’s injuries.
You should also report the injury to the school right away, so an accident report can be written. This will help to establish a timeline of events and properly document the details of the accident. In addition to this official report, it is wise to collect as much evidence of the accident and your child’s injuries as you can on your own. If there were any witnesses to the accident, including school staff members or other students, ask them if they would be willing to provide a statement detailing the events that they witnessed.
Our Personal Injury Lawyers Can Prepare a Strong Claim If Your Child Had a School Accident in Princeton, New Jersey
Finally, bring all of the evidence to be reviewed by a New Jersey personal injury lawyer at Cohen & Riechelson, who can help you determine whether you have a viable claim for compensation against the school. Our experienced personal injury attorneys will also know how to navigate and handle all of the specific requirements of bringing a claim against a public school under the NJTCA, including important filing deadlines.
We assist parents and families like yours throughout Mercer, Burlington, and Middlesex County, including Ewing, Lawrence, Hamilton, West Windsor, Trenton, Edison, Princeton, and Hopewell. Contact us at (609) 528-2596 or send us an online request for a free case evaluation today.