The education system is a huge part of children’s lives. It is where they spend important formative years and learn important life lessons. Unfortunately, schools are not perfect places, and kids sometimes get hurt.
If your child is injured at school, you can sue the school, teachers, other staff members, and even the school district. However, doing so tends to be difficult because public schools are governmental entities with a certain degree of immunity. Even private schools are protected to an extent. Although it might be difficult, an attorney can help you sue your child’s school for injuries. Examples of injury cases against schools include bullying, sexual abuse, and excessive punishments. While you may recover damages, they are limited by law.
If your child was hurt at school or by a school staff member’s negligence, contact the Rhatigan Law Offices to schedule a free review of your case with our Chicago personal injury lawyers by calling (312) 578-8502.
Suing Your Child’s School for Injuries in Chicago
Because public schools are governmental entities, suing them is not so easy. Even private schools have some protection from lawsuits and legal liability. Even so, schools are not entirely shielded from the consequences of their own negligence, and you should talk to an attorney immediately.
Suing public schools can be challenging as they are government-run institutions. As such, they enjoy a certain degree of governmental immunity from various legal claims. This does not mean you cannot sue your child’s school. There may be numerous circumstances where a public school or institution may be held liable, but you might need to clear various legal hurdles first.
Two important bodies of law that apply to lawsuits against public schools are the Local Government and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act and the Tort Liability of Schools Act. These laws protect public entities and employees, including schools and school staff members. Generally, teachers and schools are not liable for injuries related to discretionary acts or supervision. For example, if a child was injured in gym class, the school and the gym teacher might not be liable for any damages.
Lawsuits against public schools must be based on some reckless behavior by the defendant. For example, knowingly leaving students unsupervised in dangerous conditions is reckless. If a science teacher left students unsupervised while they used Bunsen burners and open flames around combustible classroom chemicals, the teacher and school could be held liable if a student were injured.
You should also bear in mind the tight deadlines surrounding lawsuits against public schools. First, your lawsuit must be filed within 1 year of the date of the injury. This is much shorter than the typical statute of limitation for personal injuries, which is 2 years.
On top of that, a notice of the claim must be submitted to the office of the school board attorney within 6 months of the injuries. If the notice is not filed on time, the case may be dismissed.
Private schools are different, as they are not considered governmental entities, and school employees are not considered public employees. While the provisions and immunities under the Local Government and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act might not apply, some protections are carved out under the Tort Liability of Schools Act. This act protects private schools as long as those private schools are non-profit.
First, the same time limits that apply to lawsuits against public schools also apply to lawsuits against non-profit private schools. This means you have only 1 year to file a lawsuit and 6 months to submit a notice of your claim to the school.
However, private schools have fewer immunities. Private schools can be sued for negligence, breaches of contract, and other injuries that public schools might not be liable for.
Common Examples of Injury Lawsuits Against Schools in Chicago
One possible claim a parent can file against a school is for sexual abuse or assault. Although the subject is difficult to discuss, sexual abuse in schools is not unheard of. Abuse might come from teachers, coaches, or other staff members. In many cases, sexual abuse happens in the context of after-school programs when there are fewer people around and school staff members have reasonable excuses to be alone with students.
While bullying is common and often leads to injuries, it does not always lead to lawsuits. Bullying happens, and sometimes it goes way too far. If your child was injured in a bullying incident, you might have a claim against the school. Your claim may be stronger if the school knew about the bullying, knew or reasonably should have known it was escalating to the point of physical danger, and did nothing to stop it. We can argue in such a case that the school recklessly placed your child in a situation they knew was dangerous and likely to lead to harm.
You might also sue your child’s school if your child was injured from excessive or unreasonable punishment. While it is normal and accepted that schools may dole out punishments to misbehaving students, these punishments should be reasonable. While physical or corporal punishment is less common nowadays, it is not necessarily illegal. If your child was injured by a punishment gone too far, speak to a lawyer now.
Possible Damages in Injury Lawsuits Against Schools in Chicago
An important element of any injury case is damages and compensation. Since taxpayers fund public schools, damages tend to be limited. Damages are also limited in cases against private schools. Schools only have so much funding and resources to dedicate to educating students, and lawmakers want to protect these resources as much as possible.
Under the Tort Liability of School Act 745 I.L.C.S. § 25/5, when suing a public school or non-profit private school, a plaintiff may recover no more than $10,000 per cause of action unless otherwise allowed by law. Depending on your situation, you might be permitted to recover greater damages. You should talk to a lawyer about your case to find out.
If Your Child Was Hurt at School, Call Our Chicago Personal Injury Attorneys for Help
Call the Rhatigan Law Offices at (312) 578-8502 to schedule a free evaluation of your case with our Illinois personal injury lawyers.
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