Few things are as upsetting for parents as getting a call from a school telling them their child suffered an injury. Often a lapse in supervision or negligence on behalf of the administration causes injuries. You can sue your child’s school for injury in Maryland. However, these cases are seldom straightforward.
Although injuries to children are traumatic, the fact your child ended up hurt while at school does not automatically mean the school is liable and you have a straightforward case against the state of Maryland. Lawsuits against schools are invariably complex. The burden is on the parent to show school personnel beached accepted standards of care. You should talk to a Baltimore child injury lawyer about your case and what to do next. It’s never easy to bring a case against a public school.
Common Injuries to Children at School in Maryland
Schools are dynamic and busy environments. With hundreds of students packed into a tight space, a lot can go wrong. Here are some of the scenarios that can leave students injured.
Slips and Falls
When school employees like janitors fail to follow the rules they may not warn of slippery surfaces. Students can fall and suffer injuries like fractures. Although a school can be held liable for the actions and inactions of employees, slip and fall lawsuits are often tricky to bring. You have to prove the employee committed a major lapse.
School sports can be hazardous. Sports like gymnastics are linked to spinal and back injuries while football and soccer are associated with head injuries.
Like most states, Maryland has strict concussion rules. School coaches must seek medical attention immediately for students who suffer concussions or other brain injuries and not allow them to return to the field until a doctor clears them. The rules are outlined by the Maryland Athletic Association.
As many as 1 in 4 students are the victims of bullying in the United States. When bullies inflict serious injuries on other students, the attack is known as an intentional tort. Schools have anti-bullying policies. If they fail to enforce them and students get injured, a school could be sued. However, it often requires a high level of negligence on behalf of an employee such as letting a fight continue to be held liable. Schools can be sued for assaults on students committed by employees.
America has been plagued by a series of school shootings in recent years. Earlier this year, families of Parkland school shooting victims in Florida filed at least 22 lawsuits against Broward County’s school board, sheriff’s office, and others. Families and injured students claim the school authorities and law enforcement failed to prevent the attack that left 17 people dead and another 17 injured in 2018.
Schools can be sued over inadequate security or failing to provide help to a potential shooter who is a known threat.
School Bus Accidents
The media regularly reports school bus accidents in Maryland and elsewhere. In April 2019, one person died and two teens sustained injuries in a school bus accident involving a tractor-trailer in Prince George’s County, Md. Many school districts suffer from a lack of bus drivers. Often school bus drivers are inexperienced or older drivers. The National Safety Council noted 95 people died in school bus crashes in 2017. Bus drivers cause many of the crashes. You can sue your child’s school board for crashes caused by a bus driver. However, other parties can be held responsible.
Schools have strict protocols to protect students with life-threatening allergies from products such as peanuts. Parents may bring lawsuits if these policies are breached and a child gets sick. The mother of a girl with a peanut allergy who died from a severe allergic reaction in Chesterfield County, Virginia, brought a $10 million lawsuit. A settlement of $612,000 was reached with the school district. The girl was given a peanut by another student during recess. The bulk of the award was made against a clinical assistant and funded via Chesterfield’s Risk Management fund. Lawyers for the deceased girl’s mother claimed the school was negligent because no medications with the girl’s name on them were kept in the clinic for an emergency. Chesterfield Schools denied liability as part of the settlement.
Defective Play Equipment and Inadequate Supervision
Younger children require more supervision than older students. Schools must pay particular attention to students with conditions like autism who could wander off school grounds and end up lost and hurt. Parents often sue nurseries and daycares over inadequate supervision leading to injuries to young children. Schools can also be sued if badly maintained or defective play equipment causes an injury.
Sexual Abuse by Teachers or Authority Figures
We expect teachers and other school workers to protect children. Sadly, revelations of institutional abuse at some Catholic and other schools have been uncovered in recent years. Child sex abuse causes physical and emotional scars. This year, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles paid $8 million to a former student who was sexually abused by a teacher at a mission school in California.
The Difference Between Suing Public and Private Schools for Injury in Maryland
People who sue public schools in Maryland face additional hurdles. You must file a “Tort Claims Act” action to sue a school district, the state or any public employee in Maryland. The Tort Claims Act requires the injured party to make a written claim within a year of an injury or a wrongful death. The statute of limitations for personal injury claims against a private individual is three years from the time of the accident in Maryland.
The Tort Claims Act also places a cap on how much the party making a claim can recover. The state cannot be held liable for more than $400,000 for injuries arising from a single incident or $800,000 for total claims from the incident. If you are suing a private school or an independent daycare, the complications of litigation against a public body do not come into play.
You must be an adult to file a legal action. However, in Maryland, a parent can sue on behalf of your child and win compensation to help them deal with injuries. The process is called suing as the “next friend” of the victim and is permitted under Maryland Rule 2-202.
Can You Sue a School Employee Personally for a Child Injury?
You can bring a suit against a state employee for negligence in Maryland. They can be sued for actions outside their work or for their behavior at the school if they acted with “gross negligence” or “malice.” This is a difficult standard to meet. A teacher who fails to break up a fight or delays a calling for help for a few minutes is unlikely to have acted with “gross negligence” or “malice.” However, a teacher who actively encourages the combatants to hit each other may have acted maliciously under the law of Maryland.
Under Maryland Code, Courts and Judicial Proceedings, 5-22, you will have to collect an award personally from the employee if you sue the individual. These kinds of actions are rare because you are more likely to make a recovery from the state.
Talk to a Baltimore Child Injury Lawyer About Suing a School for Injuries
Few things are as traumatic as an injury sustained at a school. We expect teachers, custodians, and school administrators to have the students’ best interests at heart when they are at school. This is not always the case. Due to the complicated nature of claims against schools, you should talk to a Baltimore personal injury attorney as soon as possible if your child was injured at school. At the Law Offices of Randolph Rice, our attorney will examine your case meticulously and tell you if you have grounds to make a claim or file a lawsuit. It’s important to weigh up numerous factors in asking can you sue your child’s school for Injury in Maryland including the severity of the injuries and the actions or inactions of the school staff. If we take your case on, we will do all of the hard work. Please call us for a free consultation at (410) 431-0911.