We put a lot of trust in our schools. As a society, we trust these institutions to hire capable teachers to help our young ones learn and grow into contributing members. And as parents, we trust school staff to keep our children safe during the many hours each day when they are not in our own care. When a school board or its staff have been negligent in their duty to care for our kids and they suffer serious injuries while at school, that trust is broken.
Teachers, principals and other school staff are not held to a standard of perfection. Sometimes children will sustain injuries even if a school has established a good supervision schedule, conducted regular safety audits, and implemented strong safety plans. But if your loved one has been seriously hurt in a school accident, it is always worth your time to consult an experienced personal injury lawyer to determine if a breach in the school’s duty of care due to negligence caused or contributed to the harm they suffered.
Common Types of School Accidents.
A school accident is any kind of preventable injury a child experiences while in the care of school employees. Although most school accidents occur within the school or school yard itself, children can also be injured during transportation to and from school, in the school’s environs as they enter or leave the building, or while on school-run excursions.
Some common types of school accidents include:
- school bus accidents.
- motor vehicle accidents when entering or exiting a school bus or crossing a street where there is or should be a crossing guard on duty.
- slips and falls from wet floors, unmarked hazards, or while using playground equipment.
- field trip accidents.
- gym/school sports accidents.
- defective equipment/product injuries.
- physical or psychological injuries caused by other students (rough housing, inappropriate touching, fights, school based bullying or harassment).
- physical or psychological injuries caused by school staff (physical assault, sexual abuse or assault at school, harassment)
How Do These Accidents Occur?
Although some school accident injuries are intentional (physical or sexual assaults of students or harassment), most injuries from accidents that occur in or around schools are the result of negligent actions or inaction that create unsafe environments.
Some examples include:
- inadequate supervision during unstructured or unusual activities where there is an elevated risk for injury, such as recess or lunch periods.
- hazardous objects left out or easily accessible for children in classrooms or common areas.
- unsafe school settings such as a school’s sidewalks, stairwells or hallways not regularly cleaned or monitored for hazards.
- a distracted school bus driver or crossing guard at a time when a child is near traffic.
In these cases, a potential breach in the duty of care could lead to conditions where an accident is more likely to occur. To determine if the school board and/or a school staff member is liable for injuries resulting from such an accident, courts would examine whether negligent actions or inaction caused or contributed to the injury and whether a person acted in a way that would keep people in their care reasonably safe.
Were Actions Reasonable?
Without being held to a standard of perfection, school boards and staff must perform their duties and act in a way that provides children with a reasonable expectation of safety. Specific duties owed to students in terms of safety are outlined in the Education Act and its regulations. However, school boards and staff are also bound by the Occupiers’ Liability Act and common law precedent.
Teachers are responsible for carrying out reasonable safety measures and protocols, maintaining order and discipline of students under their care in the classroom and other areas of the school grounds, and performing their expected supervisory roles. Principals must manage the school (including staff such as education support workers) and its activities in a way that adequately supervises and disciplines students. School boards must ensure schools under their direction adhere to the rules and regulations outlined in the Education Act and take care to maintain school premises in accordance with the Occupier’s Liability Act’s standard of reasonable safety.
If a school accident case results in a lawsuit against the board and/or a staff member, courts will weigh the specific facts of a case to determine whether they bear liability under the law.
For example, in one recent case, the court declined to find that a school board and teachers shared liability for a fight between two teenage students that occurred spontaneously during a three-minute transition period between classes. Although there was no formal supervision during this period, the court found that the standard of care of “a careful and prudent parent” had not been breached because teenagers are not constantly supervised by their parents. The brevity of the fight (only 30 to 45 seconds) also meant that unless a teacher had been stationed very near to where it occurred, the injuries the plaintiff sustained in the fight could not have been prevented by school staff.
However, in other instances, school staff have been found liable for breaching the standard of “a careful and prudent parent.” In one case, a school yard supervisor was found liable for injuries a child sustained after “rough housing” with older children because the unsafe play that caused the injury had taken place over several minutes. The court found the teacher had become distracted, and that if she had been exercising reasonably adequate supervision she would have identified the problematic play and stopped it before the injury occurred.
In these types of cases, a court is likely to consider the school or school board’s supervision schedules and student conduct policies, whether these schedules and policies were reasonable, properly implemented and enforced, and whether the facts surrounding a particular incident suggest there was a negligent breach in the standard of care. In addition, more than one person or institution may be found liable for school accidents if there is shared responsibility for safety conditions.
When Your Child Is Hurt.
Receiving a phone call informing you that your child has been seriously injured while at school is a moment every parent dreads. As you rush to be with them, you may not be thinking about anything else but how to comfort them and support them if they require medical treatment. Once the initial shock wears off, you may begin to ask questions about how this accident could happen, who may be responsible, and what, if anything, could have been done to prevent it.
You should know that you are not alone. At Gluckstein Personal Injury Lawyers, our school accidents team is ready to help you in any way we can.
When you contact us for your no cost, no obligation initial consultation, we will take time to listen to your story with empathy, answer any questions you may have, and explain your various options going forward. If you have an actionable claim and we believe we can help you access compensation and damages, we will offer to represent you and become your child’s advocate.
Full-circle client care.
At Gluckstein Personal Injury Lawyers, we treat our clients as we would treat our own family. When you choose to work with our firm, you get much more than a legal representative to handle your lawsuit. You will also benefit from access to a team that will provide support to you and your loved ones during this difficult time in your life.
Gluckstein’s renowned client liaisons are here to guide you through the legal process. In addition to answering questions you may have during the various stages of litigation, our client liaisons will work to connect you to resources and support groups that may help your child during their recovery. As people who care deeply about your well-being, we also ensure we check-in with you from time to time and make ourselves available if you feel you just need to talk. Some of our client liaisons have experienced their own personal injury cases; we understand how you may be feeling and will gladly offer an empathetic ear.
Even when your case concludes, our interest in your well-being will not end. We often keep in touch with our former clients to learn how they and their loved ones are doing. When we have helped a client achieve a settlement or court award, we take joy in hearing about how they have used this money to help them live their best life possible.
Here For You.
At Gluckstein Personal Injury Lawyers we believe that a person’s finances should never be a barrier to justice. We pay all costs during litigation and only accept payment if we are successful in negotiating a fair settlement for you or winning an award from the court. There is little to lose and so much to gain by pursuing a meritorious claim through us.
As one of Canada’s top personal injury law firms, we are recognized by our peers for our knowledge, experience and commitment to our clients. Trust our school accidents team to be on your side and by your side as you make a claim for the compensation your child deserves for their injuries.
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