I often receive inquires from parents whose children have suffered an injury at school. I received the following question today and thought it would prove worthwhile reading for parents with questions when their child suffers an injury at school.
Question from a Parent of a Child Injured at School
My son fractured his ankle in gym. The school has stated that they will pay his medical bills, even though they still required me to provide his health insurance. The doctor has recommended that my son receive physical therapy three times per week and he is on crutches. I do not have a car and it cost $25 each way for a cab to the physical therapist office. The school has agreed to send my son a handicap bus to transport him to and from school. Are they liable for his injury and can I sue them to pay for transportation?
Response to a Parent of a Child Injured in a Gym Class
I am sorry to hear about your son’s injury and I hope that he has a full and fast recovery. It sounds as if you have taken all the necessary first steps to take care of your son:
- Get your son the medical care he needs
- Contact the school to make sure they file an incident report with their insurance company
- Speak to the school’s insurance company about providing coverage for the injuries and treatment.
I must say that the school district has been responsive in immediately offering to cover your medical bills and to offer the special transportation while your son uses crutches. You should ask the school’s medical insurance carrier if they are willing to reimburse you for the transportation to your son’s physical therapist. Perhaps they could also find a physical therapist closer to your home and that would lower the transportation cost.
You want to know if you can pursue additional compensation from the school district. You do not say where you live so I do not know what state and local laws may apply. I will apply the laws of New York since I practice personal injury law in New York.
To prevail in a lawsuit against the school district you would need to prove that the school caused or contributed to your son’s injury through the negligence or recklessness of the school personnel or some issue concerning the maintenance and design of school property. You say that your son fractured his ankle in gym class, but you do not say how. If your son was participating in an event under the supervision of a gym teacher and happened to fracture his ankle simply playing a game, that is most likely not a case of negligence. For example, my eldest son once fractured his hand playing basketball, yet it occurred in the course of a pick-up game and resulted from natural play and not the negligence of another person. We all need to remember that injuries can occur in athletic activity through no fault of any person, but as part of the activity.
The school has an obligation to place your son in a safe environment. That requires the school to make reasonable attempts to prevent students from undertaking unsafe activities such as jumping off bleachers or engaging in improper physical horseplay. In gym class, we have a reasonable expectation that the teachers will provide adequate instruction about an activity and provide adequate equipment for the activity.
Many schools have eliminated gym activities that resulted in risks and I often think that is unfortunate. I remember jumping on a trampoline and trying to navigate a balance beam, yet most schools have eliminated those activities. Even run of the mill gym activities such as dodge ball, basketball, softball, running around a track, soccer, volleyball and touch football carry certain risks. As long as those activities are conducted in a safe environment, the school would not and should not be liable for injuries a child may suffer. I am a personal injury attorney, yet I do not believe someone is to blame for every injury or that we can or should eliminate all risks.
That said, injuries can and do result from negligence in school. Here are some examples of negligence that could occur in a gym class:
- The teacher left the class and in the teacher’s absence, horseplay broke out and that resulted in your son’s injury or another student purposely assaulted your son.
- Students engaged in risky behavior and the teacher failed to make an effort to stop the behavior.
- The teacher left the class and your son engaged in a risky behavior – perhaps climbing a rope or structure he should have avoided and fell and hurt himself.
- Your son tripped over a hole or defect in the gym floor.
In general, if your son’s injury resulted from an incident that your common sense said should not have occurred in school, then it might be negligence. If the injury occurred as the result of normal activity, then it is not negligence.
If you think you have a case or have additional questions, you may want to consult a personal injury attorney in your local area. You could provide that attorney with more details about how the injury occurred and he or she could advise on the application of local laws.
I hope this information helps and I hope your son recovers quickly. If you or a loved one has been hurt due to the negligence of another person or party, you may want to consult a New York personal injury attorney experienced with supermarket cases. I would be glad to answer your questions and assist you. There is never a fee for this consultation. You can call me at 1-800-660-1466 or email me. You can also visit my website or read more on my blog, New York Law Thoughts.
Carol L. Schlitt
New York Personal Injury Attorney
This material is intended for informational uses only. It is not meant as legal advice. To receive legal advice, you should consult an attorney. Remember, each case has a unique fact pattern. Past results do not
guarantee future outcomes.