As parents, you do everything you can to protect the health and safety of your children while they are under your supervision. But when they are at school, teachers and administrators act as in loco parentis, which means they can make many of the decisions for students that parents would make, such as choices about safety and discipline.
In loco parentis, however, does have its limitations when it comes to the school’s responsibility and liability if your child is injured while at school. Children have a legal right to learn in a safe environment, and, at the same time, school officials have a legal duty to ensure students’ safety while in their care the 200 days out of the year they are in attendance. If your child has been injured at school because of negligence, consult with a South Carolina child injury attorney to explore your legal options.
How Schools Can Be Liable for Negligence
Unfortunately, even though schools are designed for children, tens of thousands of students were injured in schools across the United States over the past decade, with 2020 on record as the worst year for in-school injuries.
If your student was injured while at school, was the school staff negligent in protecting your child? Negligence could be the case, for example, if a teacher left the room and a fight broke out.
But these negligence cases are almost always challenged, so legal representation is imperative to prove that your child’s injuries were preventable in situations, such as:
- Your child was exposed to and injured by dangerous or unsafe playground or sports equipment.
- A predatory teacher was irresponsibly hired by the school district
- Slip and falls
- School bus accidents because of an untrained driver
- Food poisoning
- Mold and mildew
ow to Legally Prove a School’s Negligence
With the help of a child injury attorney in South Carolina, you can take on a school district and its insurance company to protect the rights of your child.
Any injuries that happen during the school day because of inadequate supervision can make a school liable for not fulfilling its duty of care.
What Is Duty of Care?
Duty of care is defined as a requirement that a person acts toward others and the public with the attention that a reasonable person in those circumstances would use. In a school setting, it is crucial for teachers, administrators, and staff to be vigilant and perform a strict duty of care in a safe learning environment, which includes watching out for and preventing emotional, physical, and mental harm to their students. A teacher’s duty of care is held to a higher standard than those in different industries.
A breach of this duty of care that results in a student’s injuries makes the school liable for any harm that came to the student because of the teacher’s distracted, negligent behavior.
Breach of In Loco Parentis
In loco parentis is a Latin phrase that translates to “in place of the parent,” which, as a legal doctrine in South Carolina, applies to school injury cases. When you send your children to school for the day, you are essentially handing over parental-like responsibilities to schools and teachers.
If they fail to do so, they must be held accountable, but it can be difficult to determine whether or not a school bears liability for your child’s injury. An experienced personal injury attorney can review your claim and a potential lawsuit to examine whether or not the school’s actions (or non-actions) led to negligence and your child’s injury by proving:
- Breach of that duty of care and in loco parentis because the school or teacher deviated from that standard. For example, it may be found after investigating that there is too few school staff employed to supervise the students during recess or overall compared to similar-sized schools.
- Causation, which involves a causal connection between the teacher’s breach of their duty of care and your child’s injuries.
- Damages that your child suffered, which should be clear and obvious to recover compensation for negligence.
he Statute of Limitations in Filing a Lawsuit for Student Injuries
In South Carolina, student injury lawsuits must be filed within two to three years of the accident that occurred on school premises.
These claims can seek compensation for:
- Medical or hospital bills
- Physical therapy or recovery
- Property damage
- Emotional distress
- Mental anguish
overeign Immunity for Public Schools
While private schools are not protected by sovereign immunity, it is important to note that public schools, a public school district, or public school employees have sovereign immunity, which means they are immune from lawsuits under normal legal rules, but you can still take legal action. This is because the South Carolina state legislature passed the Tort Claims Act, which gives injured victims necessary rights outside of standard procedural rules, but there may be reduced time limits to file a claim in these types of cases.
Because of this added complexity, it is critical to contact an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible to get the compensation for injuries and other damages that you deserve.
Exceptions to School Liability for Student Injuries
Important exceptions to consider in a school’s liability status is when a student’s injuries occur on school property outside school hours or outside of school-sponsored events. For example, if a child pushes another down on a school playground on a Saturday and they get injured, the school is not responsible. This is especially applicable if there was fencing and closed, locked gates to keep people off the property during non-school hours.
Another exception to a school’s liability for student injuries is surrounding organized sports. For instance, if a student breaks an ankle while playing football or basketball, the child’s parents usually cannot sue the school for negligence because student athletes assume the normal risks involved in sports activities.
Contact an Attorney for Your Student’s Injuries
If your child was injured during school hours because of the school’s negligence, contact a South Carolina child injury attorney to file a lawsuit, fight for justice, and recover the compensation you deserve.