As parents, we send our kids to school every day hoping to shape them into good citizens prepared for future success. We pass the responsibility of their education to the schools expecting them to be a safe and fulfilling environment for our kids. That is a major obligation for the California school system. And sometimes it fails. If it does, our Costa Mesa child injury lawyer is here to help.
Common Failures in School Safety Systems
According to research, in the past 10 years, over 175,000 school injuries have sent a child to the emergency room. School injuries happen in a variety of circumstances: because of another student, bullying, a sporting event, school negligence, or complete happenstance.
Accidents happen when large groups of people frequently gather in one place. That’s especially true of your local school where hundreds, sometimes thousands, of kids attend each weekday. For example, there can be issues with the buildings and grounds, bullying, and abuse.
For the most part, our California education system does a superior job in safely educating our kids. But every once in a while something goes wrong. Here are a few things that can happen to your child where you might consider hiring an attorney.
Accidents from Buildings, Grounds, and Equipment
School buildings full of students are difficult to maintain safely. Cracks can appear in the flooring or wet floors can cause slips and falls. Older desks and chairs can split and break. Holes can appear on the campus lawn that cause twisted ankles.
School administrators are responsible for the upkeep of their buildings and campuses. If your child is hurt because of poor maintenance or improper physical facilities, you have grounds for compensation.
Finally, sports equipment and physical education gear must be in good working order. Physical activity is dangerous on outdated, worn, or improperly installed equipment.
Assault, Bullying, and Guns
Student-on-student physical violence can be prevented with proper adult supervision. Your school should be on the alert for gangs and individual discipline problems. And, of course, proper supervision is key. With enough adults overseeing student activities, fights can be kept at a minimum.
Bullying is typical of the school environment and an unfortunate circumstance for many kids. It’s extremely difficult for children to focus on their studies when they are constantly afraid. Schools in California are required to develop a comprehensive school safety plan to address bullying and other school safety issues.
Gun violence is also a top-of-mind security issue in American schools today. Students are entitled to a learning environment free of firearms and other deadly weapons. Teachers and students should be taught what to do in case of a shooting. They need to know how to shield themselves and when and where to run. Schools should be performing regular lockdown drills to practice these life-saving techniques.
Teachers, coaches, and guidance counselors are mandated by the state of California to report dangerous situations for students. This includes threats from other students or, occasionally, a teacher. Schools have an affirmative duty to be on the lookout for issues that endanger their students.
Often, schools will provide programs for students so they can be heard and their anxieties expressed. In the end, if administrators, teachers, and students work toward a sense of community, student violence can be reduced.
Sexual abuse of students by teachers and coaches has become more common. Some of the symptoms of abuse in a child are depression and changes in behavior. Often a child will withdraw from friends and stop participating in their usual activities. They may come home with unexplained injuries such as bruises or scratches. Or injuries that don’t match the given explanation.
Symptoms of abuse can include sexual behavior and knowledge inappropriate for the child’s age. Blood in the child’s underwear and even pregnancy or a sexually transmitted infection.
Types of Cases We Handle
- Sexual Abuse in Youth Sports
- Sexual Abuse in Youth Organizations
- Rape and Sexual Assault
It’s important for parents, coaches, and teachers to learn to spot sexual and emotional abuse. They must understand the importance of reporting it and the proper reporting procedure.
How Can I Sue a Public School in California?
Public School Lawsuits
If your child is harmed in a public school in California, the statute of limitations is only 6 months. This means that it is important to call an attorney as soon as you can after the incident. In addition, because a public school is a government entity, it enjoys special immunity from certain kinds of liability. That means suing a public school is an involved process.
However, Case Barnett Law has won numerous cases against school districts in Orange County. The rules we follow are in the California Tort Claims Act. In general, the steps you must take to file a claim are:
1. Complete your school district claim form within six months of the incident.
2. The school district either accepts or rejects the claim. If they don’t respond in 45 days, the law is on their side and the claim is considered “rejected.”
3. If your claim is rejected you may file a lawsuit. You must file your case within six months of the date of the rejection or the law will bar your claim.
The thing is, you must be very careful about how you file your claim. Your description of the claim must put the government on notice of all possible theories of liability that you intend to pursue in your lawsuit. California courts are very strict about this. They may not allow your claim if it doesn’t describe a particular theory of liability.
That’s where we can help. We are experienced with child injury lawsuits against schools. We won’t let the claims process trip you up and nullify your suit.
Private School Lawsuits
It may be easier to sue a private school in California because it is not protected by government immunity unless it receives federal funding. The statute of limitations is also longer with private schools. That means that you would have longer than six months to file your claim.
Types of Cases We Can and Can Not Help With
At Case Barnett Law, we often get calls regarding cases we regrettably are unable to take on. Many of these calls involve school bullying, and while we understand emotional damages can be significant in these terrible situations, courts unfortunately do not recognize the pain and suffering a family can endure as substantial damage.
However, we do want to help in any way we can.
If Your Child is Getting Bullied at School
Make sure to document every instance of it, in detail, in the form of a written notice to the school. It should outline all of the events that took place and resulting issues. This way, if the bullying turns physical and results in substantial injury to a child, the school may be held liable if appropriate action was not taken after receiving written notification. The written notice may also be extra leverage to ensure the school does in fact take preventative measures, as they now are held accountable and will be liable if anything were to happen.
Serious Accidents at Schools
In cases where substantial injury results, such as a traumatic brain injury that alters the trajectory of the student's life, we can help. In cases where another student causes substantial injury to a child, the school is still responsible for taking care of any economic damages and future care the child may require. If the school is directly responsible, such as when school ground equipment injures a child, you certainly have a case. We’ve handled many cases where a gate has crushed a child’s finger, or a child was injured on the playground or in the school gym. In one situation, we even had a child get her finger caught in the door because of the negligence of a school nurse.
Call Case Barnett Law
Case Barnett specializes in Child Injury Law. Parents don’t often realize that expenses such as medical bills and physical therapy may be ongoing. We can help you get the compensation your child deserves if he or she is injured at school. Also, schools should be held to a higher standard, so if your lawsuit helps them become safer, you have done your community a service.
Do you have questions? Do you think you might need to sue your school? Give us a call today at 949-861-2990 or contact us here for a free consult. We have been proudly servicing clients throughout Costa Mesa, California and the surrounding areas.