Children can sustain injuries at school in many ways. They might get hurt on the bus, during recess, while taking a field trip, or because another child caused them harm. Dealing with minor injuries is a normal occurrence for parents, but that doesn’t prepare them for when their child gets injured in school. School injury claims are distinct from other personal injury claims because of special rules and procedures, especially when children attend a public school.
Below we provide a closer look at school injury lawsuits in Louisiana, including the process, the things that make school injury claims different from other personal injury claims, and how you can seek compensation for damages after your child gets injured at school.
School Injury Claims Have Special Procedures
If a school’s negligence led to your child suffering injuries, Louisiana law permits you to seek compensation for damages related to the injuries and associated losses on behalf of your child. However, school injury claims have unique legal aspects that differentiate them from other claims. If you plan on taking legal action against the school for your child’s injuries, you should be familiar with the following:
Shorter Deadlines for Bringing a Lawsuit
Louisiana has one of the shortest statutes of limitations for personal injury claims. In most cases, injured people who want to take legal action must bring a lawsuit within a year of the date of their injury. Deadlines for school injury claims vary based on the situation. If your child attends a private school, it’s likely the one-year deadline applies. Public schools are a different story because they are a government entity.
Louisiana, like other states, grants government entities immunity from lawsuits in many situations. Yet, the law also recognizes parish school boards as corporate entities that can sue and be sued. Your attorney will evaluate your school injury claim to see if you have a viable claim and apply the right procedural laws. However, you should be aware that some parishes require claimants to file a claim far sooner than one year. You might need to file a claim against the school within 30, 60, or 90 days.
Liability Is Notoriously Complex
Children play. Accidents happen. Sometimes they even put themselves in danger without a clear understanding of the risk of injury. Louisiana law factors in the notion that sometimes kids are partially responsible for their own injuries. This idea is referred to as comparative negligence. Louisiana courts apply pure comparative negligence to personal injury claims, which means that the court reduces damages by the percentage that the claimant was at fault for their injuries. For example, if you sue for $10,000 and the court finds your child was 40 percent at fault for his or her injuries, you can only receive 60 percent of a jury verdict in your favor, or $6,000.
The complexity of a school injury claim lies in the fact that a minor is involved. Personal injury attorneys typically argue that a child should not be held to the same standard for fault or negligence as an adult. The human brain does not fully develop until after age 20 and children simply do not have the same capability to understand their actions as an adult. They also lack maturity and knowledge that allows them to make sound decisions about risk. You can be sure the school’s defense legal team will argue comparative negligence, making for negotiations and a potentially messy court case.
Settlement Procedure for School Injury Claims
When you take legal action after your child suffers an injury at school, you are suing on behalf of your child. When your lawyer negotiates with the school or their insurance company, he or she is negotiating on behalf of your child. Minors do not have the legal capacity to make decisions about settlements, so a Louisiana court must approve the settlement when a minor is involved. This ensures that any agreement you, with the help of an attorney, reach with the other side is in your child’s best interest. Courts also issue specific instructions dictating how settlement money or court-awarded damages should be managed and used until your child reaches age 18.
Steps to Take After Your Child Suffers an Injury at School
Although you have the right to seek compensation for damages after your child gets hurt at school, you need to prove negligence for your child to receive compensation. The stronger your case, the more likely your child will receive fair compensation commensurate with injuries. You do not have control over every aspect of a situation, but you should do what you can to preserve the value of your child’s claim. You do not want to give an insurance company or court any reason to dismiss your case.
Important steps that can help you support your child’s school injury claim include:
- Seek immediate medical treatment to ensure your child is okay, and you have medical documentation of injuries. Always follow the doctor’s orders, and if your child is not hospitalized, attend every appointment.
- If the school is not aware of the injury, report it immediately.
- Take photos of visible injuries.
- Keep receipts for all expenses related to the injury, including medical bills and any expenses you incur to care for your child. It’s better to save everything; your lawyer can eliminate unneeded information.
- Keep a daily journal as your child recovers and heals from their injuries. This allows you to better convey to your attorney and the other side how your child’s injuries have impacted his or her life. Record physical complaints of pain, emotional distress, and any other struggles and obstacles your child faces.
- Contact an experienced personal injury attorney who knows how to handle school injury claims in Louisiana. Letting a professional handle the details of your child’s claim gives you the time to help them recover.
Alvendia, Kelly & Demarest have been advocating for injured people, including children, for almost two decades. If your child has been injured at school or on a school bus, contact us today online or at 504-200-0000 to learn more about how we can help.