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Public Schools Enjoy Some Level of Immunity for Injuries to Students

Schools are expensive to operate. There are salaries to pay, buildings to heat, and books and computers to buy. The list of expenses is endless. With so many expenses, public school districts are hemorrhaging at the seams. To stay afloat, school administrators are charged with figuring out how to cut costs in a way that does not diminish a child’s education or put a student at increased risk of harm. This is a difficult balancing act, and sometimes administrators get it wrong.

If a child is injured in a public school because of the actions of a school employee, it can be difficult to obtain compensation for the child’s injuries in a court of law. In Illinois, in order to prevail in a lawsuit against a school district for injuries to a student, it must be proven that an employee of the district acted with recklessness, which is generally equated with a willful or wanton disregard for a student’s safety. This is a higher standard than in most other personal injury cases, in which a plaintiff must only prove that another person’s negligence, or failure to take reasonable care under the circumstances, caused his or her injuries.

Even though the standard is higher in cases against school districts, it is not impossible to overcome. If a school district employee has prior knowledge of a dangerous condition that exists on school property and fails to fix or repair the condition before a child is injured, for example, this may amount to recklessness. The same is true of a teacher who disregards a doctor’s note about a student’s medical condition, if the student is harmed as a result.

The elevated standard in public school personal injury cases is designed to help school districts limit the amount of taxpayer money paid towards lawsuits that would otherwise be spent on educating the children. For this reason, the standard may not apply in the case of injuries occurring on private school property, unless the school is religious-based or charitable in nature.

Premises Liability in Illinois

In cases when a person is injured while on the property of a neighbor, retail store, restaurant, or other commercial business, the property owner may be liable for compensation if the plaintiff is able to prove that the property owner or employee acted with negligence and that this negligence is the cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. Unlike injuries occurring on public school property, recklessness is not generally required for injuries that occur on private or commercial properties.

One Recent Report of Potential Liability

Earlier this month, a local news source reported on the hospitalization of several children due to carbon monoxide poisoning. Without more information, it is impossible to know whether recklessness was involved when carbon monoxide fumes were found in an elementary school in northwest Chicago in October, due to a malfunctioning boiler. However, it was also reported that 139 students and 14 adults from a different elementary school in Chicago were more recently transported to area hospitals after carbon monoxide detectors reported high levels of the gas in the school. After the first incident, the Chicago Public Schools installed over 5,900 carbon monoxide detectors in schools across the city. The establishment of a “pattern” may make liability more likely in cases like these.

Has Your Child Been Injured at School?

If your child has been injured at school, you need lawyers who have the experience to understand the differences between traditional personal injury cases and those that arise on school grounds. You also need lawyers who are committed to your child’s well-being and who are not intimidated or scared by the challenges of suing a public school district. The lawyers at Moll Law Group have successfully litigated personal injury cases on behalf of children and adults who have been injured on both public and private properties. We believe that by representing you and your loved ones, our attorneys make your schools, parks, and commercial establishments more safe for everyone. For a free consultation, call Moll Law Group at (312) 462-1700.

See More Posts:

Child Birth Injuries and Medical Malpractice Claims, Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog, December 8, 2015.

Naperville Residents Warned of Risk of Addiction to Prescription Drugs, Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog, November 21, 2015.

Emergency Room Errors May Amount to Medical Malpractice, Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog, December 7, 2015.

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