Causes of School Injuries
Many people think of schools as places of safety and security. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.
“An estimated 2.2 million children ages 14 and under sustain school-related injuries each year. Annually, one in 14 students suffers a medically attended or temporarily disabling injury at school.” (1)
There are several reasons these injuries occur, including lack of supervision and inappropriate medical care. Certain types of school-related injuries happen more often than others. These include injuries on the playground, during athletic events, and in settings susceptible to violence and crime.
Your child may have been hurt while on the school playground. “Playgrounds injuries are the leading cause of injury among children ages 5 to 14 in the school environment,” says Safe Kids Worldwide, a child safety advocacy group. (2)
The group notes those injuries are often due to playground equipment, “Approximately 13,000 playground equipment-related injuries occur on school playgrounds during school hours.” (3) They point out, “Lack of supervision is associated with 40 percent of playground injuries.” (4)
Schools are obligated to adequately maintain playground equipment and ensure the safety of playgrounds for students. Schools are also responsible for adequately supervising children while they are on school premises, including while on the playground.
A school failing to meet these obligations may be held legally responsible for any injuries your child sustains while in its care. The school should be held financially responsible to compensate your family if your child gets hurt while under its care.
Playgrounds, however, are not your only concern. School athletics can cause serious injuries as well.
If your child was injured on school grounds, you may need to file a lawsuit to help with your family’s recovery.
Get a Free Case Review
Athletic injuries may take weeks, months, or years to recover from. Some have permanent consequences. Some injuries are so severe they lead to death.
“Statistics reveal that 90 PERCENT of student athletes report some sort of sports-related injury,” according to The National Athletics Trainers’ Association. (5) These injuries range from sprains to concussions to traumatic brain injuries (TBI), or even spinal cord injuries and death.
Data shows 62% of school sports injuries occur during practices and 75% of spinal cord injuries suffered at school are connected with sports activities. (6) Sports injuries come from: (7)
- Impacts from objects.
Traumatic brain injuries and concussions are among the most frequent serious sports injuries. According to a New York State Department of Health fact sheet, “Every year, about 4,000 New York children age 19 and younger are treated at hospitals for sports-related TBIs.” (8)
Coaches and staff should take steps to ensure injured players get proper medical attention, and student athletes do not play while recovering from injuries. Coaches and staff should also see safety rules and procedures are adhered to, and all equipment is both properly maintained and functioning.
But this protection doesn’t always happen. And your child may be the one to suffer a serious injury due to this lack of adequate care.
Yet, playgrounds and school athletics are not the only risk your child may face. Children can also be injured on the school bus or at the bus stop.
School Bus Injuries
Children waiting at school bus stops or riding on school buses have been seriously injured, requiring expensive medical care. “School bus-related injuries alone account for $29.8 million in medical costs.” (9)
Additionally, “More than half of all school-age pedestrians killed in school bus-related crashes are between the ages of 5 and 7.” (10) These pedestrian deaths are likely to occur as children board or exit the bus. (11) In New York, the state Department of Motor Vehicles indicates children (K-3) were involved in 69% of the state’s school bus fatalities. (12)
Schools have an obligation to maintain their vehicles and also to ensure the operators are trained and working safely. Failure to do so can lead to accidents, injuries, and deaths.
While these facts are alarming, what is even more distressing is the growing number of children experiencing violence and crime at school.
School Violence and Crime
“During the 2017–18 school year, 80 percent of public schools recorded that one or more incidents of violence, theft, or other crimes had taken place, amounting to 1.4 million incidents,” (13) according to a National Center for Education Statistics report.
At school, our children face victimization from theft and bullying — including cyberbullying — and from fights and sexual assault. There is also risk from the availability of vaping products, alcohol, and drugs on school premises. And there is an ever-increasing number of media reports regarding weapons possession or terrorist incidents occurring in schools.
School administrators have a duty to make their classrooms, buildings, and grounds a safe environment for students. When there is an incident at school and injuries result, the school can be held responsible.
For New Yorkers, and especially New York City residents, these statistics are even more grim.
Danger in New York Schools
In a report released by the state comptroller, there were “more than 32,000 violent and disruptive incidents” in New York State public and charter schools in one school year. (14) The report goes on to say, “New York City’s public schools, which serve 1.1 million students, or 40 percent of all students in the state, reported 17,991 incidents, or 56 percent of the state’s total.” (15)
More specifically, “Incident rates climb with grade level: middle or junior high schools had 13.6 incidents per 1,000 students and senior high schools had 15.1 incidents per 1,000 students. Both had higher shares of incidents involving alcohol and drugs, as well as weapons possessions.” (16)
Most shocking is while the rate of violent crime incidents is lowest for elementary schools, 83.2% of incidents occurring at elementary schools are assaults or sex offenses. (17)
If your child has been a victim of violence or crime while at school, you should consider a lawsuit based on premises liability.
Was your child injured in an accident at school? You may be eligible for compensation.
Property owners must take reasonable measures to ensure safety. When they do not, they can be held legally responsible for any injuries someone sustains while on their property.
Schools are responsible for maintaining the grounds so accidents and injuries do not occur. If it can be proven the injury was foreseeable, the school may be liable for damages.
For example, a cafeteria table is not set up correctly and collapses, injuring a student. A puddle from a broken water pipe causes a student to slip and fall.
Or equipment used in a shop class malfunctions and the instructor continues to use it. If a student gets hurt, the school may be liable for not removing it until it can be checked and repaired. Even this may be premises liability.
Many premises liability cases also involve some degree of negligence.
Negligence is a legal concept referring to a failure to take reasonable care — and it often result in damage or injury to others. Negligence can be a contributing factor in a child’s injury at school.
Negligence takes many forms. Some types of negligence affecting the school environment are:
- Improper supervision.
- Children having access to something that can injure themselves or others.
Taking legal action can help pay for your children’s care, as well as compensate them for any long-term damage they have suffered. And, it holds the responsible parties accountable.
When considering legal action against a school in New York, your first step should be to obtain an experienced negligence attorney.
There is a set process for filing lawsuits against a school: (18) (19)
- First, your attorney files a “notice of claim” — required when planning to sue the government of New York. This must be done within 90 days of the accident.
- Next, your attorney gives the school district at least 30 days to investigate your claim.
- After the time period, your attorney has approximately 1 year to file the actual lawsuit itself.
Hiring an attorney who is skilled in negligence and premises liability cases helps you get the legal guidance you need at a stressful time. When you have an attorney who knows what needs to be done — and just how to do it — you have the best chances of a successful lawsuit.
How Weitz & Luxenberg Can Help
W&L is proud of our record as a strong advocate for injured clients.
These two cases highlight successes in helping our clients gain the justice they deserve:
- Our 15-year-old client was on a class field trip when he suffered loss of vision in one eye due to a bungee cord accident. There was $10 million in compensation recovered.
- A multimillion dollar settlement was achieved for our client after a fall from an apartment building ledge. The fall left him with a traumatic brain injury.