Please note that since this book was last published in 1997 some of the laws that have been referenced may have changed. We
are doing our best to update the articles, however, it is advisable that you to consult an attorney before relying on any information contained herein.
If your child is seriously injured in an accident at school,
you may have grounds for suing the school for damages, for
example for medical fees and pain and suffering. School
authorities have a legal duty to take 'reasonable' care to ensure
that children are not injured at school. The amount of care
depends on the age of the child; thus a school would take greater
care of, say, a five-year-old than of a teenager.
Even if your child - or another - is considered partly to
blame for an accident, you may still institute a claim, although,
if it succeeds, any compensation awarded may be reduced.
determine responsibility for damages after an accident at school,
the nature of the school must first be established. If it is a
state school, the claim would be against the relevant controlling
body; if it is a private school, against the school itself. Where
the school is insured against claims, the case will be referred
to the insurance company, although the claim must still be
brought against the school itself or its controlling body.
GROUNDS FOR DAMAGES
The law requires that school authorities - such as teachers,
principals and school committees - must take the same care of the
schoolchildren entrusted to them as a 'careful father' would.
This requirement imposes two tasks on a court determining whether
damages should be awarded because of an injury sustained at
- First, the court must decide what injury or risk of harm
a 'careful father' would have foreseen in the situation
that gave rise to the injury. The court must also decide
what the father would have done if he had realised that
the danger was present.
- Second, the court must decide whether the teacher or
school authority failed to act as a careful father would
have acted under the same circumstances. Only if the
teacher could have foreseen the danger and did not act as
a 'careful' father would have acted can a claim for
For example, if a teacher of home economics does not ensure
that the pupils in the class are aware of the dangers of working
with a gas stove and an explosion occurs, the school authorities
may be responsible for any burns or damage to clothing and
A school may also be liable for playground injuries if they
occur because of a lack of adequate supervision by its teaching
staff. A school can also be held liable for an injury sustained
outside its premises (for instance, while a child is waiting to
go home, particularly when small children are let out early and
are waiting to be collected). Even if children are dismissed on
time, a school is obliged to care for them until it can
reasonably assume that the parents will be in control. If the
school is on a main road, for instance, it would be negligent of
the teachers to allow small children to wait for their parents
unattended on the edge of the road.
Furthermore, if, through the negligence of a school, a child
runs into the road and causes an accident in which other people
are injured or killed, the victims or their dependants may also
be able to claim damages against the school.
A school can be held liable not only for a lack of supervision
but also for any injuries to schoolchildren caused by dangerous
or faulty school buildings or playground equipment.
If you believe you have a case against a school, it would be
best to contact an attorney as
the procedures in suing for damages caused by injury are
complicated. (See injuries, suing