September in Florida means the school year has firmly gotten underway.
That also means prime injury time at school is also here: a study from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found that about 4 million children and adolescents are injured at school each year.
Thankfully, fatalities are relatively rare—approximately 1 in 400 injury-related fatalities amongst children between the ages of 5 and 19 years of age while at school. And the majority of injuries that happen at school are unintentional—not violent.
But the fact that no national reporting system exists for school-associated injuries is concerning. The information that exists, says the CDC, indicates falls and sports activities are involved in almost 80% of all injuries at school. Males are about 50% more likely to be injured at school than females and are three times more likely to require hospitalization from those injuries than females. Playgrounds, athletic fields, and gymnasiums are the sites of the majority of sites where injuries occur.
Some of the accidents that occur are unavoidable. But others may be due to unsafe physical conditions at the school, or the actions—or lack of actions—of other school students or staff
Schools Have a Duty Just as Do Parents
Schools are expected to behave, “In loco parentis,” which is a legal term that basically means, “in place of parents.” This means maintaining a safe environment, preventing foreseeable danger, and taking reasonable precautions to ensure students don’t harm one another.
Schools must also act “in loco parentis,” when hiring staff at the school. Not only should schools be sure to maintain enough staff to help ensure safety, but schools must take care not to hire an adult for their staff that could be dangerous to children. Background and reference checks can ensure that a school’s staff doesn’t include a person who had a history of sexual molestation or harassment.
Premises Liability and Public Schools
Broadly speaking, school responsibility falls under the concept of “premises liability.” In short, the person who controls the premises may be held accountable for injuries that occur there. But certain elements must be met:
- The injured party must be someone who was expected to be on the property where the injury occurred. With students injured at school, this element is easily met.
- The person in charge of the premises must have been negligent with their duty to protect. They may have known about a danger but failed to take reasonable steps to prevent injury from that danger.
- And in the case of injury at school: the negligent party must be in control of the property where the injury occurred, and have prevented foreseeable harm. With an injury at school, that means the school district is the responsible party.
And that last point is where successful lawsuits for school injuries can get more complicated. Because in some states, the law prevents public schools to be sued under the concept of sovereign or state immunity.
But in Florida, fortunately for residents here, Statute 768.28 states that the State of Florida waives its right to sovereign immunity and agrees to be sued for certain reasons. This is important because schools are viewed as an arm of government
Florida’s Law and Lawsuits Against Schools
In Florida, a person who is injured by the government or a government employee can file an injury claim if the injury was caused by negligence, and the losses can be compensated with monetary damages awarded. The actions of the public party are viewed as negligent if they would have been if performed as a private party.
But there are limitations:
- There can be no personal liability for a government employee unless the harm they caused was intentional
- Claims must be filed against the government entity employing the person
- Damages are limited to $200,000, or a maximum of $300,000 if multiple state entities are involved
- No punitive damages
- The state may appeal
- Actions against a state university must be brought in the county in which the university campus is located
Filing a Claim Against a Government Entity in Florida
Any injury must be claimed in writing within three years of the incident—two years for wrongful death. No lawsuit can be filed until after a 180 day investigation period. The state agency must be noted in the claim, via either a letter that describes the date, facts of the case, and losses claimed or one of the claim forms from the Florida Division of Risk Management.
Claims against local governments in Florida must also be in writing, and sent to the local government department in charge of handling claims. One example for Miami can be seen here.
With all the important steps and processes involved in filing a lawsuit against a negligent party at a public school, the services of a lawyer may prove to be essential.
Have you or a loved one been injured in an accident at school?
If you or a loved one has been injured– or even killed—in an incident on school property, Thomas & Pearl offer you a free case consultation, and upon taking your case will work on a contingency basis.
In an initial interview you’ll have the opportunity to ask all the questions you want, and learn more about your case. You’ll pay no money upfront—only if Thomas & Pearl wins your case and gets you the compensation you deserve.
You can receive compensation for injuries sustained at a school. Before you speak with an insurance company, the attorneys at Thomas and Pearl want to speak to you.
$150 MILLION in verdicts and settlements
Thomas & Pearl can help get you the compensation needed to safeguard your future.
Thomas & Pearl attorneys have the skills and training, plus the financial resources necessary to take on the big insurance companies, and to negotiate settlements favorable for our clients. And Thomas & Pearl Attorneys will absolutely litigate to protect your rights and get you the compensation you deserve.
Ask about our experience as attorneys helping victims of personal injury and automobile accidents.
Ask about the more than $150M (MILLION) dollars in recent and past jury verdicts and settlements we have gained for our clients.
We’ll evaluate your case situation with you, develop a strategy to win or successfully negotiate the highest amount of compensation for you.
Experienced legal help can make the difference between a successful resolution and losing in court. And you pay nothing unless we get that successful resolution for you.
Contact Thomas & Pearl Injury Attorneys ANYTIME. Fighting for Floridians.
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