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You and Your Rights

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You and Your Rights

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.

Accidents At School

Claiming against the school

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.

LIABILITY To 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 school:

  • 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 damages succeed.

Warning - When a school is not liable

Schools are not liable for every accident occurring at school or during school hours. Teachers cannot be expected to protect children against every possible danger, though they must take reasonable precautions. The law recognises that it is not always possible for teachers to foresee dangers that might threaten children. Teachers have a reasonable right to assume that older children do not need constant supervision.

It is also important to remember that one purpose of schooling is to allow children to develop both physically and intellectually. To achieve this, children must be permitted to use their initiative in certain situations.

Although there is always some danger present in physical activities, it would be wrong to stop children from participating in them merely because of a small possibility of danger.

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 possessions.

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 for.)

Disclaimer :: You and Your Rights
Although we have gone to great lengths to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this database, it is important to remember that laws, government departments, interest and taxation rates are constantly changing. If you have a particularly difficult problem you are advised to consult a qualified legal authority. The publishers, editors and their representatives cannot accept responsibility for any act or omission arising from consulting the information contained herein.
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General Disclaimer: The content of Legal City does not constitute legal, tax or financial advice, nor does it necessarily reflect the views of our management, staff, shareholders, associates, contributors, authors or suppliers. Even though every endeavour has been made to ensure the accuracy of this information we cannot be held responsible for any errors and/or omissions. By using this web site you agree to accept and abide by our terms and conditions.
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