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School Liability for Student Injuries

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When Is a School Responsible for a Student's Injuries?

All land owners have a duty to exercise reasonable care to ensure that the people on their property are safe. If a property owner fails to exercise this level of care, and an injury results, he or she is for the injury.

In order for a school to be held responsible for a student’s injuries, the injured party will have to prove that it was the school’s failure to exercise reasonable care that caused the injury.

In cases where a third party committed criminal acts that injured a student on school property, the student must show that the act was foreseeable and the owner of the land took no reasonable steps to prevent it. This can make it difficult to recover for severe criminal acts that happen on school grounds, such as school shootings.

Can I Sue the School If a Student Was injured at School?

If a student is injured on school property, one of the most important factors governing the possibility and amount of recovery is whether the school is public or private.

State and federal institutions are protected by a doctrine called “sovereign immunity.” This has its origins in the English law, holding that “the King can do no wrong.” This means that, in most cases, one cannot sue a government institution unless the state has passed laws allowing such lawsuits. While the federal government and most states have passed laws allowing lawsuits for government negligence, the damages are often capped.

What Are Some Limits on Recovery?

In Virginia, they are capped at $100,000, so each victim in the Virginia Tech shooting might only be able to get that amount from the school. However, municipalities and counties generally do not have sovereign immunity, so it may be possible to sue them and have your recovery capped.

With private schools, large judgments are somewhat easier to obtain, since they do not have any special immunity.

Should I Contact a Lawyer?

If you have a child that has been injured on school property because the school failed to take reasonable precautions, you should consult with an attorney. An attorney will be able to tell you if your state has a limit on the amount you can recover from the city and talk you through all the other options available to you.

Photo of page author Jessica Tam

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 11-19-2014 03:09 PM PST

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