Children spend almost as much time at school as they do at their homes, so it is inevitable that they may receive minor injury. In more serious cases, a child might suffer a slip and fall accident that warrants a personal injury lawsuit. It is important to note that when bringing a lawsuit against a school, there are additional steps necessary since a public school district is a government agency. Below is important information about slip and fall injuries that occur at school.
Lawsuits against public defendant’s require a “notice of claim.” When bringing a personal injury case against a public entity, you are required to file a “notice of claim” within as few as 60 days after your injury. The reason for this is that governments, and their subdivisions, are entitled to immunity to liability and lawsuits. This means they cannot be sued without permission. Usually, cases against the government have to follow Tort Claims Acts, which determine the notice of claim you are required to observe.
Filing a lawsuit against a government agency can be more complicated in regards to statute of limitations. Generally, you have 6 months from the time of the injury to file an administrative claim, which is a special claim you file with the government office or agency before you file in court. You have to use the government’s form to file the claim. After you file a claim, the government has 45 days to respond.
When to file a court case depends on whether your administrative claim is denied or not responded to. If the claim is denied, you have 6 months to file in court from the date the denial was mailed. If your claim is not responded to, you have 2 years from the date the incident occurred to file in court. Failure to follow the correct procedure when filing a personal injury lawsuit against the government can result in your case being barred.
A school could easily be liable for your child’s slip and fall injury under the legal theory “premises liability.” Under premises liability, a property owner is obligated to ensure that they are maintaining a reasonably safe environment. In some situations, premises liability holds property owners responsible for injuries suffered on their property. So if it is determined that the school failed to maintain a safe environment, for instance, if they allowed large cracks and potholes on the playground, and those potholes caused the child to fall and suffer injury, the school could potentially be held responsible under premises liability.
However, premises liability claims against government agencies such as public schools are a bit different, since the school is subject to government immunity laws which create a higher standard for liability. The government has “sovereign immunity,” which establishes total immunity of the government from being sued and found liable in a lawsuit. Though this immunity has been reduced over the years through laws that limit the immunity, there are still situations where the government may be immune to premises liability.